Percy Florence

by Alexander Dove

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This little song is about Percy Florence Shelley, the only son of Mary and Percy Shelley to survive to adulthood. In addition to his famous parents, his maternal grandparents were Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin; at no other time has so much literary talent and radical intellectual power been compacted into the family tree of one person. Unfortunately, he took after his least-interesting relative, his grandfather Sir Timothy Shelley (whose title he inherited) and spent his life as a quite reputable Victorian baronet. He died without issue and his father's heart was buried with him.

The line "the man lies dead but the beast survives" is from Dante's De Monarchia as quoted in Charles Williams's The Figure of Beatrice.


Your grampa was a literate rebel,
your grandma the first woman on Earth,
your mother the galvanical lightning
that split her on giving birth—
and your father
was a spirit of living flame;
You were sealed at birth with the holy name
of a city, and his name.

But because this world has an unbearable tear in it,
you spent your days as a respectable baronet,
inheriting a title, not a birthright;
But seeing your birth like a bloody star
set the sky on fire from afar,
what kind of jaded fool would have guessed your worth right?

And what was it meant to portend,
that your mother should bear a son?
All men, according to your father's friend,
were beasts in comparison.
In you we glimpse
the true pattern of our lives:
The man lies dead but the beast survives.

We stand on the shoulders of giants;
we fall from the shoulders of giants.
We fall flat on our face—
our life is a long disgrace.
But your father
was a double giant born;
and maybe his two-fold Titanism
spoiled your proportion.

When fate swallows a father's flame,
is it wrong it should spare a son?
One thundering step of the beast of fame
scared out the garrison.
But what is owed
to those your peace deprives?
The man lies dead but the beast survives.


released November 15, 2018
Vocals, guitars, bass, percussion - Alexander Dove
Whistle, flute, Scottish smallpipes - Iain Dove Lempke

Words and music by Alexander Dove
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Alexander Dove
Track artwork by Jeremiah Madziarczyk


all rights reserved



Alexander Dove Chicago, Illinois

Alexander Dove is a songwriter, poet, and composer, who also plays in the traditional Celtic folk group Dòrain. Alexander Dove is used for more-or-less solo or self-directed work, regardless of genre. Published writings are under the name Alexander Dove Lempke. ... more

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