Adonais eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 184 pages of information about Adonais.
of Adonais (Keats).  But the more cogent argument in favour of Aphrodite Urania is to be based upon grounds of analogy or transfer, rather than upon any reasons of antecedent probability.  The part assigned to Urania in Shelley’s Elegy is very closely modelled upon the part assigned to Aphrodite in the Elegy of Bion upon Adonis (see the section in this volume, Bion and Moschus).  What Aphrodite Cypris does in the Adonis, that Urania does in the Adonais.  The resemblances are exceedingly close, in substance and in detail:  the divergences are only such as the altered conditions naturally dictate.  The Cyprian Aphrodite is the bride of Adonis, and as such she bewails him:  the Uranian Aphrodite is the mother of Adonais, and she laments him accordingly.  Carnal relationship and carnal love are transposed into spiritual relationship and spiritual love.  The hands are the hands, in both poems, of Aphrodite:  the voices are respectively those of Cypris and of Urania.

It is also worth observing that the fragmentary poem of Shelley named Prince Athanase, written in 1817, was at first named Pandemos and Urania; and was intended, as Mrs. Shelley informs us, to embody the contrast between ‘the earthly and unworthy Venus,’ and the nobler ideal of love, the heaven-born or heaven-sent Venus.  The poem would thus have borne a certain relation to Alastor, and also to Epipsychidion.  The use of the name ‘Urania’ in this proposed title may help to confirm us in the belief that there is no reason why Shelley should not have used the same name in Adonais with the implied meaning of Aphrodite Urania.

On the whole I am strongly of opinion that the Urania of Adonais is Aphrodite, and not the Muse.



The consideration which, in the preceding section, we have bestowed upon the ‘Argument’ of Adonais will assist us not a little in grasping the full scope of the poem.  It may be broadly divided into three currents of thought, or (as one might say) into three acts of passion.  I. The sense of grievous loss in the death of John Keats the youthful and aspiring poet, cut short as he was approaching his prime; and the instinctive impulse to mourning and desolation. 2.  The mythical or symbolic embodiment of the events in the laments of Urania and the Mountain Shepherds, and in the denunciation of the ruthless destroyer of the peace and life of Adonais. 3.  The rejection of mourning as one-sided, ignorant, and a reversal of the true estimate of the facts; and a recognition of the eternal destiny of Keats in the world of mind, coupled with the yearning of Shelley to have done with the vain shows of things in this cycle of mortality, and to be at one with Keats in the mansions of the everlasting.  Such is the evolution of this Elegy; from mourning to rapture:  from a purblind consideration of deathly phenomena to the illumination of the individual spirit which contemplates the eternity of spirit as the universal substance.

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Adonais from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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