Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

JULY 8th  

On this day in history in 1822 died the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Shelley was probably the greatest of the Late Romantic poets. His works included Queen Mab, Ode to the West Wind and Adonais, a tribute to his fellow poet, Keats.

Shelley was drowned in a freak storm while sailing the Mediterranean in his schooner, the Ariel. Shelley's body was washed ashore and, in keeping with the eccentric mores of the Romantics, was cremated on the beach near Viareggio. After the funeral, Shelley’s heart was discovered in the ashes of the funeral pyre and kept by his wife, Mary Shelley. Mary often remarked that Shelley had an exceptionally large heart.  

Later the heart was buried in full sized coffin at the English Cemetery in Rome, near the grave of John Keats.  Shelley had written of this cemetery ‘It might make one half in love with death to be buried in such a sweet a place as this’. The cemetery is indeed quite delightful. It is enclosed within ivy covered walls and in Summer the ground is covered with Violets. On Shelley’s tombstone is written the words ‘Cor Cordium’ Latin for ‘Heart of Hearts’. 

However, organic science tells us that the last organ of the body to be consumed in fire is the liver which is quite larger than the heart. It is probable that the organ buried in the grave is not Shelley’s heart but the liver. The inscription on the tombstone should therefore read ‘Icer icerum’, ‘Liver of livers’!

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