To say that the poet Keats, figured as Adonais, was son to one of the Muses, appears so natural and straightforward a symbolic suggestion as to command summary assent. But why, out of the nine sisters, should the Muse of Astronomy be selected? Keats never wrote about astronomy, and had no qualifications and no faintest inclination for writing about it: this science, and every other exact or speculative science, were highly alien from his disposition and turn of mind. And yet, on casting about for a reason, we can find that after all and in a certain sense there is one forthcoming, of some considerable amount of relevancy. In the eyes of Shelley, Keats was principally and above all the poet of Hyperion; and Hyperion is, strictly speaking, a poem about the sun. In like manner, Endymion is a poem about the moon. Thus, from one point of view—I cannot see any other—Keats might be regarded as inspired by, or a son of, the Muse of Astronomy. A subordinate point of some difficulty arises from stanza 6, where Adonais is spoken of as ’the nursling of thy [Urania’s] widowhood’—which seems to mean, son of Urania, born after the father’s death. Urania is credited in mythology with the motherhood of two sons—Linus, her offspring by Amphimacus, who was a son of Poseidon, and Hymenaeus, her offspring by Apollo. It might be idle to puzzle over this question of Urania’s ‘widowhood,’ or to attempt to found upon it (on the assumption that Urania the Muse is referred to) any theory as to who her deceased consort could have been: for it is as likely as not that the phrase which I have cited from the poem is not really intended to define with any sort of precision the parentage of the supposititious Adonais, but, practically ignoring Adonais, applies to Keats himself, and means simply that Keats, as the son of the Muse, was born out of time—born in an unpoetical and unappreciative age. Many of my readers will recollect that Milton, in the elaborate address which opens Book 7 of Paradise Lost, invokes Urania. He is careful however to say that he does not mean the Muse Urania, but the spirit of ‘Celestial Song,’ sister of Eternal Wisdom, both of them well-pleasing to the ‘Almighty Father.’ Thus far for Urania the Muse.
I now come to Aphrodite Urania. This deity is to be carefully distinguished from the Cyprian or Pandemic Aphrodite: she is different, not only in attribute and function, but even in personality and origin. She is the daughter of Heaven (Uranus) and Light; her influence is heavenly: she is heavenly or spiritual love, as distinct from earthly or carnal love. If the personage in Shelley’s Elegy is to be regarded, not as the Muse Urania, but as Aphrodite Urania, she here represents spiritual or intellectual aspiration, the love of abstract beauty, the divine element in poesy or art. As such, Aphrodite Urania would be no less appropriate than Urania or any other Muse to be designated as the mother