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I. I weep for Adonais - he is dead! O, weep for Adonais! though our tears Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head! And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers, And teach them thine own sorrow, say: "With me Died Adonais; till the Future dares Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be An echo and a light unto eternity!" II. Where wert thou, mighty Mother, when he lay, When thy Son lay, pierced by the shaft which flies In darkness? where was lorn Urania When Adonais died? With veiled eyes, Mid listening Echoes, in her Paradise She sate, while one, with soft enamoured breath, Rekindled all the fading melodies With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneath, He had adorned and hid the coming bulk of death. III. O, weep for Adonais - he is dead! Wake, melancholy Mother, wake and weep! Yet wherefore? Quench within their burning bed Thy fiery tears, and let thy loud heart keep Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep; For he is gone, where all things wise and fair Descend; - oh, dream not that the amorous Deep Will yet restore him to the vital air; Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair. IV. Most musical of mourners, weep again! Lament anew, Urania! - He died, Who was the Sire of an immortal strain, Blind, old, and lonely, when his country's pride, The priest, the slave, and the liberticide Trampled and mocked with many a loathed rite Of lust and blood; he went, unterrified, Into the gulf of death; but his clear Sprite Yet reigns o'er earth; the third among the sons of light. V. Most musical of mourners, weep anew! Not all to that bright station dared to climb; And happier they their happiness who knew, Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time In which suns perished; others more sublime, Struck by the envious wrath of man or god, Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime; And some yet live, treading the thorny road Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode. VI. But now, thy youngest, dearest one, has perished - The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew, Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherished, And fed with true-love tears, instead of dew; Most musical of mourners, weep anew! Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last, The bloom, whose petals nipped before they blew Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste; The broken lily lies - the storm is overpast. VII. To that high Capital, where kingly Death Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay, He came; and bought, with price of purest breath, A grave among the eternal. - Come away! Haste, while the vault of blue Italian day Is yet his fitting charnel-roof! while still He lies, as if in dewy sleep he lay; Awake him not! surely he takes his fill Of deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill. VIII. He will awake no more, oh, never more! - Within the twilight chamber spreads apace The shadow of white Death, and at the door Invisible Corruption waits to trace His extreme way to her dim dwelling-place; The eternal Hunger sits, but pity and awe Soothe her pale rage, nor dares she to deface So fair a prey, till darkness, and the law Of change, shall o'er his sleep the mortal curtain draw. IX. O, weep for Adonais! - The quick Dreams, The passion-winged Ministers of thought, Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught The love which was its music, wander not, - Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain, But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain, They ne'er will gather strength, or find a home again. X. And one with trembling hands clasps his cold head, And fans him with her moonlight wings, and cries, "Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead; See, on the silken fringe of his faint eyes, Like dew upon a sleeping flower, there lies A tear some Dream has loosened from his brain." Lost Angel of a ruined Paradise! She knew not 'twas her own; as with no stain She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain. XI. One from a lucid urn of starry dew Washed his light limbs as if embalming them; Another clipped her profuse locks, and threw The wreath upon him, like an anadem, Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem; Another in her wilful grief would break Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem A greater loss with one which was more weak; And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek. XII. Another Splendour on his mouth alit, That mouth, whence it was wont to draw the breath Which gave it strength to pierce the guarded wit, And pass into the panting heart beneath With lightning and with music: the damp death Quenched its caress upon his icy lips; And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath Of moonlight vapour, which the cold night clips, It flushed through his pale limbs, and passed to its eclipse. XIII. And others came... Desires and Adorations, Winged Persuasions and veiled Destinies, Splendours, and GloOms, and glimmering Incarnations Of hopes and fears, and twilight Phantasies; And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs, And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam Of her own dying smile instead of eyes, Came in slow pomp; - the moving pomp might seem Like pageantry of mist on an autumnal stream. XIV. All he had loved, and moulded into thought, From shape, and hue, and odour, and sweet sound, Lamented Adonais. Morning sought Her eastern watch-tower, and her hair unbound, Wet with the tears which should adorn the ground, Dimmed the auoreal eyes that kindle day; Afar the melancholy thunder moaned, Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay, And the wild Winds flew round, sobbing in their dismay. XV. Lost Echo sits amid the voiceless mountains, And feeds her grief with his remembered lay, And will no more reply to winds or fountains, Or amorous birds perched on the young green spray, Or herdsman's horn, or bell at closing day; Since she can mimic not his lips, more dear Than those for whose disdain she pined away Into a shadow of all sounds: - a drear Murmur, between their songs, is all the woodmen hear. XVI. Grief made the young Spring wild, and she threw down Her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were, Or they dead leaves; since her delight is flown, For whom should she have waked the sullen year? To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear Nor to himself Narcissus, as to both Thou, Adonais: wan they stand and sere Amid the faint companions of their youth, With dew all turned to tears; odour, to sighing ruth. XVII. Thy spirit's sister, the lorn nightingale Mourns not her mate with such melodious pain; Not so the eagle, who like thee could scale Heaven, and could nourish in the sun's domain Her mighty youth with morning, doth complain, Soaring and screaming round her empty nest, AsAlbion wails for thee: the curse of Cain Light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast, And scared the angel soul that was its earthly guest! XVIII. Ah, woe is me! Winter is come and gone, But grief returns with the revolving year; The airs and streams renew their joyous tone; The ants, the bees, the swallows reappear; Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Season's bier; The amorous birds now pair in every brake, And build their mossy homes in field and brere; And the green lizard, and the golden snake, Like unimprisoned flames, out of their trance awake. XIX. Through wood and stream and field and hill and Ocean A quickening life from the Earth's heart has burst As it has ever done, with change and motion, From the great morning of the world when first God dawned on Chaos; in its stream immersed, The lamps of Heaven flash with a softer light; All baser things pant with life's sacred thirst; Diffuse themselves; and spend in love's delight The beauty and the joy of their renewed might. XX. The leprous corpse, touched by this spirit tender, Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath; Like incarnations of the stars, when splendour Is changed to fragrance, they illumine death And mock the merry worm that wakes beneath; Nought we know, dies. Shall that alone which knows Be as a sword consumed before the sheath By sightless lightning? - the intense atom glows A moment, then is quenched in a most cold repose. XXI. Alas! that all we loved of him should be, But for our grief, as if it had not been, And grief itself be mortal! Woe is me! Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene The actors or spectators? Great and mean Meet massed in death, who lends what life must borrow. As long as skies are blue, and fields are green, Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow, Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow. XXII. He will awake no more, oh, never more! "Wake thou," cried Misery, "childless Mother, rise Out of thy sleep, and slake, in thy heart's core, A wound more fierce than his with tears and sighs." And all the Dreams that watched Urania's eyes, And all the Echoes whom their sister's song Had held in holy silence, cried: "Arise!" Swift as a Thought by the snake Memory stung, From her ambrosial rest the fading Splendour sprung. XXIII. She rose like an autumnal Night, that springs Our of the East, and follows wild and drear The golden Day, which, on eternal wings, Even as a ghost abandoning a bier, Had left the Earth a corpse. Sorrow and fear So struck, so roused, so rapt Urania; So saddened round her like an atmosphere Of stormy mist; so swept her on her way Even to the mournful place where Adonais lay. XXIV. Our of her secret Paradise she sped, Through camps and cities rough with stone, and steel, And human hearts, which to her aery tread Yielding not, wounded the invisible Palms of her tender feet where'er they fell: And barbed tongues, and thoughts more sharp than they, Rent the soft Form they never could repel, Whose sacred blood, like the young tears of May, Paved with eternal flowers that undeserving way. XXV. In the death-chamber for a moment Death, Shamed by the presence of that living Might, Blushed to annihilation, and the breath Revisited those lips, and Life's pale light Flashed through those limbs, so late her dear delight. "Leave me not wild and drear and comfortless, As silent lightning leaves the starless night! Leave me not!" cried Urania: her distress Roused Death: Death rose and smiled, and met her vain caress. XXVI. "'Stay yet awhile! speak to me once again; Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live; And in my heartless breast and burning brain That word, that kiss, shall all thoughts else survive, With food of saddest memory kept alive, Now thou art dead, as if it were a part Of thee, my Adonais! I would give All that I am to be as thou now art! But I am chained to Time, and cannot thence depart! XXVII. "O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert, Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart Dare the unpastured dragon in his den? Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then Wisdom the mirrored shield, or scorn the spear? Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when Thy spirit should have filled its crescent sphere, The monsters of life's waste had fled from thee like deer. XXVIII. "The herded wolves, bold only to pursue; The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead; The vultures to the conqueror's banner true Who feed where Desolation first has fed, And whose wings rain contagion; - how they fled, When, like Apollo, from his golden bow The Pythian of the age one arrow sped And smiled! - The spoilers tempt no second blow, They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low. XXIX. "The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn; He sets, and each ephemeral insect then Is gathered into death without a dawn, And the immortal stars awake again; So is it in the world of living men: A godlike mind soars forth, in its delight Making earth bare and veiling heaven, and when It sinks, the swarms that dimmed or shared its light Leave to its kindred lamps the spirit's awful night." XXX. Thus ceased she: and the mountain shepherds came, Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent; The Pilgrim of Eternity, whose fame Over his living head like Heaven is bent, An early but enduring monument, Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song In sorrow; from her wilds Ierne sent The sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong, And Love taught Grief to fall like music from his tongue. XXXI. Midst others of less note, came one frail Form, A phantom among men; companionless As the last cloud of an expiring storm Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess, Had gazed on Nature's naked loveliness, Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness, And his own thoughts, along that rugged way, Pursued, like raging hounds, their father and their prey. XXXII. Apardlike Spirit beautiful and swift - A Love in desolation masked; - a Power Girt round with weakness; - it can scarce uplift The weight of the superincumbent hour; It is a dying lamp, a falling shower, A breaking billow; - even whilst we speak Is it not broken? On the withering flower The killing sun smiles brightly: on a cheek The life can burn in blood, even while the heart may break. XXXIII. His head was bound with pansies overblown, And faded violets, white, and pied, and blue; And a light spear topped with a cypress cone, Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew Yet dripping with the forest's noonday dew, Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart Shook the weak hand that grasped it; of that crew He came the last, neglected and apart; A herd-abandoned deer struck by the hunter's dart. XXXIV. All stood aloof, and at his partial moan Smiled through their tears; well knew that gentle band Who in another's fate now wept his own, As in the accents of an unknown land He sung new sorrow; sad Urania scanned The Stranger's mien, and murmured: "Who art thou?" He answered not, but with a sudden hand Made bare his branded and ensanguined brow, Which was like Cain's or Christ's - oh! that it should be so! XXXV. What softer voice is hushed over the dead? Athwart what brow is that dark mantle thrown? What form leans sadly o'er the white death-bed, In mockery of monumental stone, The heavy heart heaving without a moan? If it be He, who, gentlest of the wise, Taught, soothed, loved, honoured the departed one, Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs, The silence of that heart's accepted sacrifice. XXXVI. Our Adonais has drunk poison - oh! What deaf and viperous murderer could crown Life's early cup with such a draught of woe? The nameless worm would now itself disown: It felt, yet could escape, the magic tone Whose prelude held all envy, hate, and wrong, But what was howling in one breast alone, Silent with expectation of the song, Whose master's hand is cold, whose silver lyre unstrung. XXXVII. Live thou, whose infamy is not thy fame! Live! fear no heavier chastisement from me, Thou noteless blot on a remembered name! But be thyself, and know thyself to be! And ever at thy season be thou free To spill the venom when thy fangs o'erflow: Remorse and Self-contempt shall cling to thee; Hot Shame shall burn upon thy secret brow, And like a beaten hound tremble thou shalt - as now. XXXVIII. Nor let us weep that our delight is fled Far from these carrion kites that scream below; He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead; Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now - Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow Back to the burning fountain whence it came, A portion of the Eternal, which must glow Through time and change, unquenchably the same, Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame. XXXIX. Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep - He hath awakened from the dream of life - 'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep With phantoms an unprofitable strife, And in mad trance, strike with our spirit's knife Invulnerable nothings. -We decay Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief Convulse us and consume us day by day, And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay. XL. He has outsoared the shadow of our night; Envy and calumny and hate and pain, And that unrest which men miscall delight, Can touch him not and torture not again; From the contagion of the world's slow stain He is secure, and now can never mourn A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain; Nor, when the spirit's self has ceased to burn, With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn. XLI. He lives, he wakes - 'tis Death is dead, not he; Mourn not for Adonais. - Thou young Dawn, Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee The spirit thou lamentest is not gone; Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan! Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown O'er the abandoned Earth, now leave it bare Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair! XLII. He is made one with Nature: there is heard His voice in all her music, from the moan Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird; He is a presence to be felt and known In darkness and in light, from herb and stone, Spreading itself where'er that Power may move Which has withdrawn his being to its own; Which wields the world with never-wearied love, Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above. XLIII. He is a portion of the loveliness Which once he made more lovely: he doth bear His part, while the one Spirit's plastic stress Sweeps through the dull dense world, compelling there All new successions to the forms they wear; Torturing th' unwilling dross that checks its flight To its own likeness, as each mass may bear; And bursting in its beauty and its might From trees and beasts and men into the Heavens' light. XLIV. The splendours of the firmament of time May be eclipsed, but are extinguished not; Like stars to their appointed height they climb, And death is a low mist which cannot blot The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair, And love and life contend in it, for what Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air. XLV. The inheritors of unfulfilled renown Rose from their thrones, built beyond mortal thought, Far in the Unapparent. Chatterton Rose pale, - his solemn agony had not Yet faded from him; Sidney, as he fought And as he fell and as he lived and loved Sublimely mild, a Spirit without spot, Arose; and Lucan, by his death approved: Oblivion as they rose shrank like a thing reproved. XLVI. And many more, whose names on Earth are dark, But whose transmitted effluence cannot die So long as fire outlives the parent spark, Rose, robed in dazzling immortality. "Thou art become as one of us," they cry, "It was for thee yon kingless sphere has long Swung blind in unascended majesty, Silent alone amid an Heaven of Song. Assume thy winged throne, thou Vesper of our throng!" XLVII. Who mourns for Adonais? Oh, come forth, Fond wretch! and know thyself and him aright. Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous Earth; As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might Satiate the void circumference: then shrink Even to a point within our day and night; And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink When hope has kindled hope, and lured thee to the brink. XLVIII. Or go to Rome, which is the sepulchre, Oh, not of him, but of our joy: 'tis nought That ages, empires, and religions there Lie buried in the ravage they have wrought; For such as he can lend, - they borrow not Glory from those who made the world their prey; And he is gathered to the kings of thought Who waged contention with their time's decay, And of the past are all that cannot pass away. IL. Go thou to Rome, - at once the Paradise, The grave, the city, and the wilderness; And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise, And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress The bones of Desolation's nakedness Pass, till the spirit of the spot shall lead Thy footsteps to a slope of green access Where, like an infant's smile, over the dead A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread; L. And grey walls moulder round, on which dull Time Feeds, like slow fire upon a hoary brand; And one keen pyramid with wedge sublime, Pavilioning the dust of him who planned This refuge for his memory, doth stand Like flame transformed to marble; and beneath, A field is spread, on which a newer band Have pitched in Heaven's smile their camp of death, Welcoming him we lose with scarce extinguished breath. LI. Here pause: these graves are all too young as yet To have outgrown the sorrow which consigned Its charge to each; and if the seal is set, Here, on one fountain of a mourning mind, Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find Thine own well full, if thou returnest home, Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb. What Adonais is, why fear we to become? LII. The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly; Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity, Until Death tramples it to fragments. - Die, If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek! Follow where all is fled! - Rome's azure sky, Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak. LIII. Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my Heart? Thy hopes are gone before: from all things here They have departed; thou shouldst now depart! A light is passed from the revolving year, And man, and woman; and what still is dear Attracts to crush, repels to make thee wither. The soft sky smiles, - the low wind whispers near: 'Tis Adonais calls! oh, hasten thither, No more let Life divide what Death can join together. LIV. That Light whose smile kindles the Universe, That Beauty in which all things work and move, That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love Which through the web of being blindly wove By man and beast and earth and air and sea, Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of The fire for which all thirst, now beams on me, Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality. LV. The breath whose might I have invoked in song Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng Whose sails were never to the tempest given; The massy earth and sphered skies are riven! I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar; Whilst, burning through the inmost veil of Heaven, The soul of Adonais, like a star, Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.
Return to Shelley's Poetry
Stanzas 1 to 8 are addressed to Urania, mother to Adonais, calling
upon her to lead the mourning for the tragic death of Adonais/Keats
In Greek mythology Adonis was the handsome youth loved by Aphrodite who was killed by a wild boar and, following Aphrodite's intercession, allowed by the gods to return for half of the year. In this poem Shelley makes the comparison between the prematurely killed handsome youth, beloved by the goddess of love, and the cyclical return of Spring and fertility each year. The references to the "frost which binds so dear a head" in line 3 continue this parallel between the grieving poet's mental state and the harshness of Winter, but the additional proviso that, as we read through the poem, the sense of grief and tragedy gives way to Spring and the reincarnation of Adonais/Keats in the realms above this world
here meaning companion hours, the more obscure hours which have not been marked by the tragedy which singles this particular hour, the hour of death, for particular significance.
Later in the poem it is made clear that the death of Adonais/Keats is not be moured but rather celebrated, because he lives on, in the realm of the Spirit and in the Platonic realm above and beyond this life. At this point, however, it is the memory that lives on, and posthumous fame.
The reference here is to Urania (who was also celebrated as the Muse of Poetry) as the Mother to Keats/Adonais and whom the poet calls upon here to lead the mourning.
In other words, swiftly and unseen. The poem refers here both to the death of Adonis, impaled by the horns of the wild boar, but also the critics who, in Shelley's view, had contributed to Keats' premature death.
i.e., the body of her son. Urania, as a Spirit, is personified as sitting in Paradise.
A reference here to Persephone, queen of the underworld who, according to legend, fell in love with the dead Adonis and refused to let him return to the world for six months each year as ordained by the gods.
The allusion here is to the race of poets, sired by and presided over by the blind Milton, the greatest of the poets as Shelley felt.
i.e., spirit. Shelley here is alluding to Milton as the passionately republican and radical poet, a libertarian who had heroically stood up against the forces of tyranny and oppression in England in the seventeenth century, even when blind. The lines immediate prior to this, and the references to "lust and blood", reflect Shelley's own radical political sympathies, and in particular his outrage at the Peterloo massacre. See England in 1819 and The Mask of Anarchy for more on the background to Shelley's political views.
Milton is seen, by Shelley, to rank alongside Homer and Dante amongst the ranks of the great and departed poets, who yet live on through their poetry and in the minds and hearts of men.
Shelley here is referring to those lesser minor poets who have not been as successful as Milton, Homer or Dante, but who have still managed to find happiness without the premature and tragic death of Adonias.
those poets who, having earned success and recognition early on
have neglected or lost this early promise.
With the death of the Father-poet Urania, as the Muse of poetry, has been left to bring up the young Adonias alone, nursing him in the way that a sad maiden might keep onto a trophy of a young love which has now gone and lives on only in the memory.
Rome. Keats was buried in the protestant cemetery in the city
A sepulchre, where the body of the dead youth has been placed.
The forces of bodily decay which will work, like the "eternal
Hunger" referred to later, their hungry and remorseless work
on the young poet's corpse. It is important, in the context of
the poem as a whole, to se the contrast that Shelley draws between
the two worlds - this physical world - and the world of Spirit,
Beauty and Truth. Behind this stands an incipient neo-Platonic
view that, beyond this world of appearances, there is a purer
and more essential realm of spirit, irrespective of the drawing
of the "mortal curtain" in this physical life.
From stanzas 9-17 we see a procession of mourners, personifed ideas, lamenting the loss of the young Adonias/Keats
i.e., the Mental Ideas/Presences - Dreams, Glooms and Spleandours - here personified as sheep grazing, and alongside which the young poet had drunk from the life-giving waters. Now that Keats/Adonias has gone these "sheep" are left to wander lost.
i.e., one of the mourning Presences
garland or bouquet
The pain of lost love which the Presence now feels for the departed soul
The entire stanza conveys the idea of Keats/Adonias as a fallen star or meteor, which has left its trail across the cold sky (the wreath), and also the transient spark which had flushed through the young poet just before his premature death. Note, once more, how these images work towards a sense of the precious and essential quality of the poet, emphasizing his fragility - one born too pure for this world.
As a poet Keats had striven to give actuality to these Presences, Ideas, Thoughts and States, making them incarnate in this world. It is, therefore, natural that they should lament him now. It is important to note that Shelley present Keats as also an intellectual' poet, one who had worked with ideas, not simply feelings and emotions, and attempted to bring them to life and let them live.
The figure of Morning, personified, also laments the passing of Keats/Adonias and, with her hair wet with tears, she is a morning shower which prevents the full glory of the new day and sunlight to shine through.
In part a reference to the distruption of Nature brought by the death of Keats/Adonias, but a reference also to the classical figure of Echo, lover of Narcissus, who pined and wasted away through hopeless love, and now pines and mourns for Adonias.
Hyacinth was beloved by Phoebus and accidentally killed by him
Narcissus, beloved by Echo, loved only himself (and his own reflection).
in other words, sighs of compassion, rather than sweet scents. The stanza as a whole is concerned with the mourning of flowers themselves (and Hyacinth and Narcissus live on, as names of flowers), even in Spring.
Keats had, of course, celebrayed the song of the nightingale in his famous ode
Shelley refers here to the eagle who nourishes his youth by flying upwards towards the sun. The reference also alludes to Keats' poem about the sun-god, 'Hyperion', over which Keats had agonised.
The ancient name for England
Cain had murdered his brother Abel. The allusion here is to those murderous critics who, in the eye of Shelley, had contributed to the untimely death of Keats
From stanzas 18 to 21 the sense of the poem shifts to discussion of the seasons: in nature Winter gives way to Spring but this is no consolation for the death of Adonias, and the grief is all the more pronounced for those who must remain. Stanza 21 most fully amplifies this sense of the sorrows of remaining
Stanzas 22 to 29 are concerned with the rising of Urania, her travels to lead the mourning for Adonias, and her lamentations for her dead son.
Urania, as the Muse of Poetry, is chained to mortal men and to time, and so cannot escape into immortality
In a stanza which is mainly concerned with personifying the critics as wolves, ravens and vultures, the allusion here is to the figure of Byron, who had rebuked and silenced his critics in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1820). Keats, however, had been unable to respond in this way. The comparison with Apollo derives from Apollo's legendary killing of the dragon Python.
Urania here clearly alludes both to Keats himself, but also to the figure of Hyperion, who had risen as a star, and then, having risen to pre-eminence, sunk below the horizon, leaving darkness behind him. The lines also refer to the lesser poets, critics or imitators of Keats, who shared in his glory when he was alive, but are now dim lights with his passing away.
In true Pastoral tradition the poem moves to describe the procession of fellow poets, including Byron, Thomas Moore and Shelley himself
Ireland. The reference here is to the now-forgotten poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852) who wrote of Ireland's suffering at the hands of England and the English
i.e. Shelley himself
Acteon, the hunter, had stumbled upon the naked bathing figure of Diana and she had turned him into a stag, whereupon he was torn apart by his own hounds. Shelley appropriates this classical reference to speak of the poet as Acteon, gazing upon Nature's nakedness, and punished for this.
i.e., like a leopard.
i.e. overwhelming and unbearable (referring to the present hour of sorrow and mourning)
i.e. Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), the poet and journal;ist who had championed both Keats and Shelley as poets.
i.e., the unknown or anonymous critic and reviewer who had harshly criticised Keats and therefore, in Shelley's view, been responsible for the poet's death. He must now live on with the knowledge and guilt of his actions and words.
The poem turns at this point, reversing the idea of loss, and moving towards the notion of rebirth and reincarnation. Although Keats may be dead in body, he will live on and thus achieve immortality in the minds and hearts of those who outlive him. Behind these lines we can see Shelley presenting his neo-platonic notions of poetic immortality. He has, in a sense, gone to a far better place than we, in physical temporal life, must live on.
Shelley's version of neo-platonism is clearly evident here: beyond this veil of tears and sorrows, physical life, and the world of dull appearances, there is the purer and more essential realm of Spirit, the Reality into which Keats has now awakened.
our own physical bodies, the "dust" from which Man (Adam) was fashioned and to which each of us will return.
The turn-around is now virtually complete within the poem, as we move from mourning and lamentation to joy and celebration.
the shaping power of the Spirit to produce manifestations of pure form in this physical and mortal world. Keats is returned to this purer realm of the Essences.
Thomas Chatterton (1752-70) was the young poet who, like Keats, died at a tragically early age, 17.
i.e., Sir Philip Sidney ((1552-86), the Elizabethan poet and soldier who also died young.
A reference to the Roman poet Marcus Armeus Lucanus, who was forced to commit suicide at the age of 26 by the tyrant Emperor Nero
In this final section of the poem this is the central rhetorical question. Keats now dwells in purity, spirit and light, far beyond the pettiness, disappointment and mundanity of this, our fallen physical world, and he has been reunited with the "kings of thought", the intellectuals and artists who are above the oppressive influence of religious or political tyrants.
Shelley's own three-year old son, William, was buried in the English cemetery in Rome. This gives added poignancy to this poem.
A clear expression of Shelley's version of platonism: the 'One' is the Pure, the True, the Essential, the Absolute, whereas the many are the earthly expression or manifestation of this One, beautiful at times, but inferior (hence "stained") to the spiritual and essential realm above and beyond this physical earthly life.
An anticipation of the nature of Shelley's own funeral service, perhaps, and also to the import of 'Ode to the west Wind', in which Shelley personifies the Wind as the force of inspiration and animation which will enthuse him. Here there is the additional (neo-platonic) connotation: the (unseen) wind serves as a spiritual manifestation, driving the human form in the same way that wind drives and fills the sails of a small boat.
The reincarnated spirit is here likened to the Morning Star, Venus,
from which the human voyager can navigate a safe passage across
the seas of life and towards spiritual destination. The poem concludes
on an optimistic and acclamatory note, but also a note of uncertainty
and apprehension, asking for courage that he may follow the shining
example of this new-born star (Adonais) and hence be led also
into the realms of the Spirit and the Essential.
Essentially this poem is a tribute to and valediction for the poet Keats, who died in February, 1821, written in the tradition of Elizabethan Pastoral verse. Within the poem Keats is personified as the figure of Adonais, the handsome youth who dies prematurely, hounded by critics and reviewers, and suffering also from poor health: Keats's death from tuberculosis, at the age of 25, is presented here as precipitated by savage and unjust criticism, most notably for the reception accorded to his poems 'Endymion' and 'Hyperion'. At one level, therefore, the poem is a poet's tribute to a fellow poet, fittingly dressed in the classical allusions and references to figures from Keats's own poetry.
It is, however, far more than that. Adonais is notable
also as an instance of shelley's developing version of neo-Platonic
philosophy, and his view that the dead Keats is transfigured through
spiritual ascension into the realms of the essential, the absolute,
the pure and true, against which ordinary mortal reality seems
but a poor and second-hand copy. Far from mourning for Keats/Adonais
we, as inhabitants of this fallen world of "Appearances",
should celebrate the fact that Keats has gained access to the
purer world of the Spirit. The poem works through this "mourning
process" in a series of marked stages, culminating in the
poet's final wish for courage and faith that he too will be able
to follow the influence and spirit of Keats/Adonais, on his journey
towards intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. The conclusions
might, at one level, be described as "pagan", something
which Shelley, in referring to Rome in the poem, is all too conscious
of: not for Shelley the orthodox view of heaven, with its harps
and angels, but rather a platonic view of the transcendent world
of "Essences", above and beyond this world. In a sense,
therefore, Adonais can and should be seen in more abstract
terms, as a poem dealing with human loss and grief, and with the
attempt to come to terms with and exorcise the grief for one is
no longer with us.
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