Adonais eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 147 pages of information about Adonais.

+Stanza 3,+ 1. 1. And then came one of sweet and earnest looks. It is sufficiently clear that this stanza, and also the fragmentary beginning of stanza 4, refer to Leigh Hunt—­who, in the body of the Elegy, is introduced in st. 35.  The reader will observe, on looking back to that stanza, that the present one could not be added on to the description of Hunt:  it is an alternative form, ultimately rejected.  Its tone is ultra-sentimental, and perhaps on that account it was condemned.  The simile at the close of the present stanza is ambitious, but by no means felicitous.

+Stanza 4,+ 11. 1, 2. His song, though very sweet, was low and faint, A simple strain. It may be doubted whether this description of Hunt’s poetry, had it been published in Adonais, would have been wholly pleasing to Hunt.  Neither does it define, with any exceptional aptness, the particular calibre of that poetry.

+Stanza 5,+ 11. 1, 2. A mighty Phantasm, half concealed In darkness of his own exceeding light. It seems to have been generally assumed that Shelley, in this stanza, describes one more of the ‘Mountain Shepherds’ (see st. 30)—­viz.  Coleridge.  No doubt, if any poet or person is here indicated, it must be Coleridge:  and the affirmative assumption is so far confirmed by the fact that in another poem—­the Letter to Maria Gisborne, 1820—­Shelley spoke of Coleridge in terms partly similar to these:—­

’You will see Coleridge; he who sits obscure
In the exceeding lustre and the pure
Intense irradiation of a mind
Which, with its own internal lightning blind,
Flags wearily through darkness and despair—­
A cloud-encircled meteor of the air,
A hooded eagle among blinking owls.’

But the first question is—­Does this cancelled stanza relate to a Mountain Shepherd at all?  To speak of a Mountain Shepherd as a ‘mighty Phantasm,’ having an ‘awful presence unrevealed,’ seems to be taking a considerable liberty with language.  To me it appears more likely that the stanza relates to some abstract impersonation—­perhaps Death, or else Eternity.  It is true that Death figures elsewhere in Adonais (stanzas 7, 8, 25) under an aspect with which the present phrases are hardly consistent:  but, in the case of a cancelled stanza, that counts for very little.  In Prometheus Unbound (Act ii, sc. 4) Eternity, symbolised in Demo-gorgon, is described in terms not wholly unlike those which we are now debating:—­

’I see a mighty Darkness
Filling the seat of power, and rays of gloom
Dart round, as light from the meridian sun,
Ungazed upon and shapeless.  Neither limb,
Nor form, nor outline; yet we feel it is
A living Spirit.’

As to the phrase in the cancelled stanza, ’In darkness of his own exceeding light,’ it need hardly be observed that this is modified from the expression in Paradise Lost (Book 3):—­

‘Dark with excessive bright thy skirts appear.’

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Adonais from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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