Revolt of Islam

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An epic political poem by P. B. Shelley, written in 1817 (under the title ‘Laon and Cythna: or The Revolution in the Golden City, A Vision of the Nineteenth Century’), published 1818.

The poem, in twelve cantos of Spenserian stanzas, is Shelley's idealized and idiosyncratic version of the French Revolution, transposed to an Oriental setting. The revolt is organized by a brother and sister, Laon and Cythna, whose temporary success is celebrated in incestuous love‐making (Canto VI). But the tyrants recover power, and Islam is subject to plague and famine, vividly described (Canto X). Brother and sister are burnt at the stake, but sail together with an illegitimate child to a visionary Hesperides (Canto XII). The figure of Cythna, the revolutionary feminist, is of historical interest; and the prose preface, concerning reactions to the French Revolution, is impressively argued.

Subjects: Literature.

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