Vegetarieni faimosi: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Besides being one of Britain’s finest poets, Shelley (1792-1822) was also something of an enfant terrible of his day, championing before his untimely death such heterodox causes as atheism, free love, and vegetarianism. The latter is defended in his 1813 A Vindication of Natural Diet. In them, Shelley advocates abstinence from alcohol as well as meat on the grounds that such a „natural diet” enhances physical and mental fitness. But his vegetarianism is not based exclusively on considerations of health. Shelley was a convinced materialist and traced „all vice and misery” to physical „morbidity” and „disease.” It followed for him that a dietary regimen which prevented destabilizing bodily malaise also struck at „the root of evil” by eliminating its cause. Consequently, Shelley regarded vegetarianism not merely as a prudential hygienic strategy. He also saw it as a necessary step in the moral perfection of humanity.

Shelley’s Vindication was influenced by Plutarch’s essay on abstinence; he even worked on a translation of it, although the manuscript has not survived. Like Plutarch, Shelley argues that humans are not designed by nature for flesh consumption; and, in book 8 of his „Queen Mab,” published in the same year as the Vindication, he imagines a future in which humans, returned to a natural diet, enjoy „kindly passions,” „pure desires,” and are free from the moral handicaps of „Hatred, despair and loathing.”

Here now the human being stands adorning
This loveliest earth with taintless body and mind;
Blessed from his birth with all bland impulses,
Which gently in his noble bosom wake
All kindly passions and all pure desires.
Him, still from hope to hope the bliss pursuing
Which from the exhaustless lore of human weal
Dawns on the virtuous mind, the thoughts that rise
In time-destroying infiniteness, gift
With self-enshrined eternity, that mocks
The unprevailing hoariness of age,
And man, once fleeting o’er the transient scene
Swift as an unremembered vision, stands
Immortal upon earth: no longer now
He slays the lamb that looks him in the face,
And horribly devours his mangled flesh,
Which, still avenging nature’s broken law,
Kindled all putrid humours in his frame,
All evil passions, and all vain belief,
Hatred, despair, and loathing in his mind,
The germs of misery, death, disease, and crime.

Walters, Kerry S., Ethical Vegetarianism: from Pythagoras to Peter Singer, State University of New York Press, NY, 1999, pp.69-70

 

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~ de Alexandra pe Iulie 19, 2010.

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