The Spenserian metre, in which Adonais is written, was used by Shelley in only one other instance—his long ideal epic The Revolt of Islam.
The relation of Shelley’s Elegy of Adonais to the two Elegies written by Bion and by Moschus must no doubt have been observed, and been more or less remarked upon, as soon as Adonais obtained some currency among classical readers; Captain Medwin, in his Shelley Papers, 1832, referred to it. I am not however aware that the resemblances had ever been brought out in detail until Mr. G.S.D. Murray, of Christ Church, Oxford, noted down the passages from Bion, which were published accordingly in my edition of Shelley’s Poems, 1870. Since then, 1888, Lieut.-Colonel Hime, R.A., issued a pamphlet (Dulau & Co.) entitled The Greek Materials of Shelley’s Adonais, with Remarks on the three Great English Elegies, entering into further, yet not exhaustive, particulars on the same subject. Shelley himself made a fragmentary translation from the Elegy of Bion on Adonis: it was first printed in Mr. Forman’s edition of Shelley’s Poems, 1877. I append here those passages which are directly related to Adonais:—
’I mourn Adonis dead—loveliest Adonis—
Dead, dead Adonis—and the Loves lament.
Sleep no more, Venus, wrapped in purple woof—
Wake, violet-stoled queen, and weave the crown
Of death,—’tis Misery calls,—for he is dead.
With hair unbound is wandering through the woods,
Wildered, ungirt, unsandalled—the thorns pierce
Her hastening feet, and drink her sacred blood.
* * * * *
The flowers are withered up with grief.
* * * * *
Echo resounds, . . “Adonis dead!”
* * * * *
She clasped him, and cried ... “Stay, Adonis!
Stay, dearest one,...
And mix my lips with thine!
Wake yet a while, Adonis—oh but once!—
That I may kiss thee now for the last time—
But for as long as one short kiss may live!”
The reader familiar with Adonais will recognise the passages in that poem of which we here have the originals. To avoid repetition, I do not cite them at the moment, but shall call attention to them successively in my Notes at the end of the volume.
For other passages, also utilised by Shelley, I have recourse to the volume of Mr. Andrew Lang (Macmillan & Co. 1889), Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, rendered into English Prose. And first, from Bion’s Elegy on Adonis:—