The Revolt of Islam (1818)
is a poem in twelve cantos composed by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1817. The poem was originally published under the title Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century by Charles and James Ollier in December 1817. Shelley composed the work in the vicinity of Bisham Woods, near Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire, northwest of London, from April to September. The plot centres on two characters named Laon and Cythna, inhabitants of Argolis under Ottoman rule who initiate a revolution against its despotic ruler. Despite its title, the poem is not focused on Islam as a specific religion, though the general subject of religion is addressed, and the work draws on Orientalist archetypes and themes. The work is a symbolic parable on liberation and revolutionary idealism following the disillusionment of the French Revolution.
[Composed in the neighbourhood of Bisham Wood, near Great Marlow,
Bucks, 1817 (April-September 23); printed, with title (dated 1818),
“Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of
the Nineteenth Century”, October, November, 1817, but suppressed,
pending revision, by the publishers, C & J. Ollier. (A few copies had
got out, but these were recalled, and some recovered.) Published, with
a fresh title-page and twenty-seven cancel-leaves, as “The Revolt of
Islam”, January 10, 1818. Sources of the text are (1) “Laon and
Cythna”, 1818; (2) “The Revolt of Islam”, 1818; (3) “Poetical Works”,
1839, editions 1st and 2nd–both edited by Mrs. Shelley. A copy, with
several pages missing, of the “Preface”, the Dedication”, and “Canto
1” of “Laon and Cythna” is amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the
Bodleian. For a full collation of this manuscript see Mr. C.D.
Locock’s “Examination of the Shelley Manuscripts at the Bodleian
Library”. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1903. Two manuscript fragments from
the Hunt papers are also extant: one (twenty-four lines) in the
possession of Mr. W.M. Rossetti, another (9 23 9 to 29 6) in that of
Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B. See “The Shelley Library”, pages 83-86, for
an account of the copy of “Laon” upon which Shelley worked in revising
I have not done a review but I have made a reading which is posted in parts on my blog.
The Revolt of Islam, Shelly.