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Title: Adonais
Author: Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 1792-1822
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Adonais" ***





With Introduction and Notes






_Adonais_ is the first writing by Shelley which has been included in the
_Clarendon Press Series_. It is a poem of convenient length for such a
purpose, being neither short nor decidedly long; and--leaving out of
count some of the short poems--is the one by this author which
approaches nearest to being 'popular.' It is elevated in sentiment,
classical in form,--in substance, biographical in relation to Keats, and
in some minor degree autobiographical for Shelley himself. On these
grounds it claimed a reasonable preference over all his other poems, for
the present method of treatment; although some students of Shelley,
myself included, might be disposed to maintain that, in point of
absolute intrinsic beauty and achievement, and of the qualities most
especially characteristic of its author, it is not superior, or indeed
is but barely equal, to some of his other compositions. To take, for
instance, two poems not very different in length from _Adonais_--_The
Witch of Atlas_ is more original, and _Epipsychidion_ more abstract in

I have endeavoured to present in my introductory matter a comprehensive
account of all particulars relevant to _Adonais_ itself, and to Keats as
its subject, and Shelley as its author. The accounts here given of both
these great poets are of course meagre, but I assume them to be not
insufficient for our immediate and restricted purpose. There are many
other books which the reader can profitably consult as to the life and
works of Shelley; and three or four (at least) as to the life and works
of Keats. My concluding notes are, I suppose, ample in scale: if they
are excessive, that is an involuntary error on my part. My aim in them
has been to illustrate and elucidate the poem in its details, yet
without travelling far afield in search of remote analogies or
discursive comment--my wish being rather to 'stick to my text': wherever
a difficulty presents itself, I have essayed to define it, and clear it
up--but not always to my own satisfaction. I have seldom had to discuss
the opinions of previous writers on the same points, for the simple
reason that of detailed criticism of _Adonais_, apart from merely
textual memoranda, there is next to none.

It has appeared to me to be part of my duty to point out here and there,
but by no means frequently, some special beauty in the poem;
occasionally also something which seems to me defective or faulty. I am
aware that this latter is an invidious office, which naturally exposes
one to an imputation, from some quarters, of obtuseness, and, from
others, of presumption; none the less I have expressed myself with the
frankness which, according to my own view, belongs to the essence of
such a task as is here undertaken. _Adonais_ is a composition which has
retorted beforehand upon its actual or possible detractors. In the poem
itself, and in the prefatory matter adjoined to it, Shelley takes
critics very severely to task: but criticism has its discerning and
temperate, as well as its 'stupid and malignant' phases.


_July, 1890._


The life of Percy Bysshe Shelley is one which has given rise to a great
deal of controversy, and which cannot, for a long time to come, fail to
be regarded with very diverse sentiments. His extreme opinions on
questions of religion and morals, and the great latitude which he
allowed himself in acting according to his own opinions, however widely
they might depart from the law of the land and of society, could not but
produce this result. In his own time he was generally accounted an
outrageous and shameful offender. At the present date many persons
entertain essentially the same view, although softened by lapse of
years, and by respect for his standing as a poet: others regard him as a
conspicuous reformer. Some take a medium course, and consider him to
have been sincere, and so far laudable; but rash and reckless of
consequences, and so far censurable. His poetry also has been subject to
very different constructions. During his lifetime it obtained little
notice save for purposes of disparagement and denunciation. Now it is
viewed with extreme enthusiasm by many, and is generally admitted to
hold a permanent rank in English literature, though faulty (as some
opine) through vague idealism and want of backbone. These are all points
on which I shall here offer no personal opinion. I shall confine myself
to tracing the chief outlines of Shelley's life, and (very briefly) the
sequence of his literary work.

Percy Bysshe Shelley came of a junior and comparatively undistinguished
branch of a very old and noted family. His branch was termed the
Worminghurst Shelleys; and it is only quite lately[1] that the
affiliation of this branch to the more eminent and senior stock of the
Michelgrove Shelleys has passed from the condition of a probable and
obvious surmise into that of an established fact. The family traces up
to Sir William Shelley, Judge of the Common Pleas under Henry VII,
thence to a Member of Parliament in 1415, and to the reign of Edward I,
or even to the Norman Conquest. The Worminghurst Shelleys start with
Henry Shelley, who died in 1623. It will be sufficient here to begin
with the poet's grandfather, Bysshe Shelley. He was born at Christ
Church, Newark, North America, and raised to a noticeable height,
chiefly by two wealthy marriages, the fortunes of the junior branch.
Handsome, keen-minded, and adventurous, he eloped with Mary Catherine,
heiress of the Rev. Theobald Michell, of Horsham; after her death he
eloped with Elizabeth Jane, heiress of Mr. Perry, of Penshurst. By this
second wife he had a family, now represented, by the Baron de l'Isle and
Dudley: by his first wife he had (besides a daughter) a son Timothy, who
was the poet's father, and who became in due course Sir Timothy Shelley,
Bart., M.P. His baronetcy was inherited from his father Bysshe--on whom
it had been conferred, in 1806, chiefly through the interest of the Duke
of Norfolk, the head of the Whig party in the county of Sussex, to whose
politics the new baronet had adhered.

Mr. Timothy Shelley was a very ordinary country gentleman in essentials,
and a rather eccentric one in some details. He was settled at Field
Place, near Horsham, Sussex, and married Elizabeth, daughter of Charles
Pilfold, of Effingham, Surrey; she was a beauty, and a woman of good
abilities, but without any literary turn. Their first child was the
poet, Percy Bysshe, born at Field Place on Aug. 4, 1792: four daughters
also grew up, and a younger son, John: the eldest son of John is now the
Baronet, having succeeded, in 1889, Sir Percy Florence Shelley, the
poet's only surviving son. No one has managed to discover in the parents
of Percy Bysshe any qualities furnishing the prototype or the nucleus of
his poetical genius, or of the very exceptional cast of mind and
character which he developed in other directions. The parents were
commonplace: if we go back to the grandfather, Sir Bysshe, we encounter
a man who was certainly not commonplace, but who seems to have been
devoid of either poetical or humanitarian fervour. He figures as intent
upon his worldly interests, accumulating a massive fortune, and spending
lavishly upon the building of Castle Goring; in his old age, penurious,
unsocial, and almost churlish in his habits. His passion was to domineer
and carry his point; of this the poet may have inherited something. His
ideal of success was wealth and worldly position, things to which the
poet was, on the contrary, abnormally indifferent.

Shelley's schooling began at six years of age, when he was placed under
the Rev. Mr. Edwards, at Warnham. At ten he went to Sion House School,
Brentford, of which the Principal was Dr. Greenlaw, the pupils being
mostly sons of local tradesmen. In July, 1804, he proceeded to Eton,
where Dr. Goodall was the Head Master, succeeded, just towards the end
of Shelley's stay, by the far severer Dr. Keate. Shelley was shy,
sensitive, and of susceptible fancy: at Eton we first find him
insubordinate as well. He steadily resisted the fagging-system, learned
more as he chose than as his masters dictated, and was known as 'Mad
Shelley,' and 'Shelley the Atheist.' It has sometimes been said that an
Eton boy, if rebellious, was termed 'Atheist,' and that the designation,
as applied to Shelley, meant no more than that. I do not feel satisfied
that this is true at all; at any rate it seems to me probable that
Shelley, who constantly called himself an atheist in after-life,
received the epithet at Eton for some cause more apposite than
disaffection to school-authority.

He finally left Eton in July, 1810. He had already been entered in
University College, Oxford, in April of that year, and he commenced
residence there in October. His one very intimate friend in Oxford was
Thomas Jefferson Hogg, a student from the county of Durham. Hogg was
not, like Shelley, an enthusiast eager to learn new truths, and to apply
them; but he was a youth appreciative of classical and other literature,
and little or not at all less disposed than Percy to disregard all
prescription in religious dogma. By demeanour and act they both courted
academic censure, and they got it in its extremest form. Shelley wrote,
probably with some co-operation from Hogg, and he published anonymously
in Oxford, a little pamphlet called _The Necessity of Atheism_; he
projected sending it round broadcast as an invitation or challenge to
discussion. This small pamphlet--it is scarcely more than a
flysheet--hardly amounts to saying that Atheism is irrefragably true,
and Theism therefore false; but it propounds that the existence of a God
cannot be proved by reason, nor yet by testimony; that a direct
revelation made to an individual would alone be adequate ground for
convincing that individual; and that the persons to whom such a
revelation is not accorded are in consequence warranted in remaining
unconvinced. The College authorities got wind of the pamphlet, and found
reason for regarding Shelley as its author, and on March 25, 1811, they
summoned him to appear. He was required to say whether he had written it
or not. To this demand he refused an answer, and was then expelled by a
written sentence, ready drawn up. With Hogg the like process was
repeated. Their offence, as entered on the College records, was that of
'contumaciously refusing to answer questions,' and 'repeatedly declining
to disavow' the authorship of the work. In strictness therefore they
were expelled, not for being proclaimed atheists, but for defying
academic authority, which required to be satisfied as to that question.
Shortly before this disaster an engagement between Shelley and his first
cousin on the mother's side, Miss Harriet Grove, had come to an end,
owing to the alarm excited by the youth's sceptical opinions.

Settling in lodgings in London, and parting from Hogg, who went to York
to study conveyancing, Percy pretty soon found a substitute for Harriet
Grove in Harriet Westbrook, a girl of fifteen, schoolfellow of two of
his sisters at Clapham. She was exceedingly pretty, daughter of a
retired hotel-keeper in easy circumstances. Shelley wanted to talk both
her and his sisters out of Christianity; and he cultivated the
acquaintance of herself and of her much less juvenile sister Eliza,
calling from time to time at their father's house in Chapel Street,
Grosvenor Square. Harriet fell in love with him: besides, he was a
highly eligible _parti_, being a prospective baronet, absolute heir to a
very considerable estate, and contingent heir (if he had assented to a
proposal of entail, to which however he never did assent, professing
conscientious objections) to another estate still larger. Shelley was
not in love with Harriet; but he liked her, and was willing to do
anything he could to further her wishes and plans. Mr. Timothy Shelley,
after a while, pardoned his son's misadventure at Oxford, and made him a
moderate allowance of £200 a-year. Percy then visited a cousin in Wales,
a member of the Grove family. He was recalled to London by Harriet
Westbrook, who protested against a project of sending her back to
school. He counselled resistance. She replied in July 1811 (to quote a
contemporary letter from Shelley to Hogg), 'that resistance was useless,
but that she would fly with me, and threw herself upon my protection.'
This was clearly a rather decided step upon the damsel's part: we may
form our own conclusions whether she was willing to unite with Percy
without the bond of marriage; or whether she confidently calculated upon
inducing him to marry her, her family being kept in the dark; or whether
the whole affair was a family manoeuvre for forcing on an engagement and
a wedding. Shelley returned to London, and had various colloquies with
Harriet: in due course he eloped with her to Edinburgh, and there on
28th August he married her. His age was then just nineteen, and hers
sixteen. Shelley, who was a profound believer in William Godwin's
_Political Justice_, rejected the institution of marriage as being
fundamentally irrational and wrongful. But he saw that he could not in
this instance apply his own pet theories without involving in discredit
and discomfort the woman whose love had been bestowed upon him. Either
his opinion or her happiness must be sacrificed to what he deemed a
prejudice of society: he decided rather to sacrifice the former.

For two years, or up to an advanced date in 1813, the married life of
Shelley and Harriet appears to have been a happy one, so far as their
mutual relation was concerned; though rambling and scrambling,
restricted by mediocrity of income (£400 a year, made up between the two
fathers), and pestered by the continual, and to Percy at last very
offensive, presence of Miss Westbrook as an inmate of the house. They
lived in York, Keswick in Cumberland, Dublin (which Shelley visited as
an express advocate of Catholic emancipation and repeal of the Union),
Nantgwillt in Radnorshire, Lynmouth in Devonshire, Tanyrallt in
Carnarvonshire, London, Bracknell in Berkshire: Ireland and Edinburgh
were also revisited. Various strange adventures befell; the oddest of
all being an alleged attempt at assassination at Tanyrallt. Shelley
asserted it, others disbelieved it: after much disputation the
biographer supposes that, if not an imposture, it was a romance, and, if
not a romance, at least a hallucination,--Shelley, besides being wild in
talk and wild in fancy, being by this time much addicted to
laudanum-dosing. In June 1813 Harriet gave birth, in London, to her
first child, Ianthe Eliza (she married a Mr. Esdaile, and died in 1876).
About the same time Shelley brought out his earliest work of importance,
the poem of _Queen Mab_: its speculative audacities were too extreme for
publication, so it was only privately printed.

Amiable and accommodating at first, and neither ill-educated nor stupid,
Harriet did not improve in tone as she advanced in womanhood. Her
sympathy or tolerance for her husband's ideals and vagaries flagged;
when they differed she gave him the cold shoulder; she wanted
luxuries--such as a carriage of her own--which he neither cared for nor
could properly afford. He even said--and one can hardly accuse him of
saying it insincerely--that she had been unfaithful to him: this however
remains quite unproved, and may have been a delusion. He sought the
society of the philosopher Godwin, then settled as a bookseller in
Skinner Street, Holborn. Godwin's household at this time consisted of
his second wife, who had been a Mrs. Clairmont; Mary, his daughter by
his first wife, the celebrated Mary Wollstonecraft; and his young son by
his second wife, William; also his step-children, Charles and Clare
Clairmont, and Fanny Wollstonecraft (or Imlay), the daughter of Mary
Wollstonecraft by her first irregular union with Gilbert Imlay. Until
May 1814, when she was getting on towards the age of seventeen, Shelley
had scarcely set eyes on Mary Godwin: he then saw her, and a sudden
passion sprang up between them--uncontrollable, or, at any rate,
uncontrolled. Harriet Shelley has left it on record that the advances
and importunities came from Mary Godwin to Shelley, and were for a while
resisted: it was natural for Harriet to allege this, but I should not
suppose it to be true, unless in a very partial sense. Shelley sent for
his wife, who had gone for a while to Bath (perhaps in a fit of
pettishness, but this is not clear), and explained to her in June that
they must separate--a resolve which she combated as far as seemed
possible, but finally she returned to Bath, staying there with her
father and sister. Shelley made some arrangements for her convenience,
and on the 28th of July he once more eloped, this time with Mary Godwin.
Clare Clairmont chose to accompany them. Godwin was totally opposed to
the whole transaction, and Mrs. Godwin even pursued the fugitives across
the Channel; but her appeal was unavailing, and the youthful and defiant
trio proceeded in much elation of spirit, and not without a good deal of
discomfort at times, from Calais to Paris, and thence to Brunen by the
Lake of Uri in Switzerland. It is a curious fact, and shows how
differently Shelley regarded these matters from most people, that he
wrote to Harriet in affectionate terms, urging her to join them there or
reside hard by them. Mary, before the elopement took place, had made a
somewhat similar proposal. Harriet had no notion of complying; and, as
it turned out, the adventurers had no sooner reached Brunen than they
found their money exhausted, and they travelled back in all haste to
London in September,--Clare continuing to house with them now, and for
the most part during the remainder of Shelley's life. Even a poet and
idealist might have been expected to show a little more worldly wisdom
than this. After his grievous experiences with Eliza Westbrook, the
sister of his first wife, Shelley might have managed to steer clear of
Clare Clairmont, the sister by affinity of his second partner in life.
He would not take warning, and he paid the forfeit: not indeed that
Clare was wanting in fine qualities both of mind and of character, but
she proved a constant source of excitement and uneasiness in the
household, of unfounded scandal, and of harassing complications.

In London Shelley and Mary lived in great straits, abandoned by almost
all their acquaintances, and playing hide-and-seek with creditors. But
in January 1815 Sir Bysshe Shelley died, and Percy's money affairs
improved greatly. An arrangement was arrived at with his father, whereby
he received a regular annual income of £1000, out of which he assigned
to Harriet £200 for herself and her two children--a son, Charles Bysshe,
having been born in November 1814 (he died in 1826). Shelley and Mary
next settled at Bishopgate, near Windsor Forest. In May 1816 they went
abroad, along with Miss Clairmont and their infant son William, and
joined Lord Byron on the shore of the Lake of Geneva. An amour was
already going on between Byron and Miss Clairmont; it resulted in the
birth of a daughter, Allegra, in January 1817; she died in 1822, very
shortly before Shelley. He and Mary had returned to London in September
1816. Very shortly afterwards, 9th of November, the ill-starred Harriet
Shelley drowned herself in the Serpentine: her body was only recovered
on the 10th of December, and the verdict of the Coroner's Jury was
'found drowned,' her name being given as 'Harriet Smith.' The career of
Harriet since her separation from her husband is very indistinctly
known. It has indeed been asserted in positive terms that she formed
more than one connexion with other men: she had ceased to live along
with her father and sister, and is said to have been expelled from their
house. In these statements I see nothing either unveracious or unlikely:
but it is true that a sceptical habit of mind, which insists upon
express evidence and upon severe sifting of evidence, may remain
unconvinced[2]. This was the second suicide in Shelley's immediate
circle, for Fanny Wollstonecraft had taken poison just before under
rather unaccountable circumstances. No doubt he felt dismay and horror,
and self-reproach as well; yet there is nothing to show that he
condemned his conduct, at any stage of the transactions with Harriet, as
heinously wrong. He took the earliest opportunity--30th of December--of
marrying Mary Godwin; and thus he became reconciled to her father and to
other members of the family.

It was towards the time of Harriet's suicide that Shelley, staying in
and near London, became personally intimate with the essayist and poet,
Leigh Hunt, and through him he came to know John Keats: their first
meeting appears to have occurred on 5th February, 1817. As this matter
bears directly upon our immediate theme, the poem of _Adonais_, I deal
with it at far greater length than its actual importance in the life of
Shelley would otherwise warrant.

Hunt, in his _Autobiography_, narrates as follows. 'I had not known the
young poet [Keats] long when Shelley and he became acquainted under my
roof. Keats did not take to Shelley as kindly as Shelley did to him.
Shelley's only thoughts of his new acquaintance were such as regarded
his bad health with which he sympathised [this about bad health seems
properly to apply to a date later than the opening period when the two
poets came together], and his poetry, of which he has left such a
monument of his admiration as _Adonais_. Keats, being a little too
sensitive on the score of his origin, felt inclined to see in every man
of birth a sort of natural enemy. Their styles in writing also were very
different; and Keats, notwithstanding his unbounded sympathies with
ordinary flesh and blood, and even the transcendental cosmopolitics of
_Hyperion_, was so far inferior in universality to his great
acquaintance that he could not accompany him in his daedal rounds with
Nature, and his Archimedean endeavours to move the globe with his own
hands [an allusion to the motto appended to _Queen Mab_]. I am bound to
state thus much; because, hopeless of recovering his health, under
circumstances that made the feeling extremely bitter, an irritable
morbidity appears even to have driven his suspicions to excess; and this
not only with regard to the acquaintance whom he might reasonably
suppose to have had some advantages over him, but to myself, who had
none; for I learned the other day with extreme pain ... that Keats, at
one period of his intercourse with us, suspected both Shelley and myself
of a wish to see him undervalued! Such are the tricks which constant
infelicity can play with the most noble natures. For Shelley let
_Adonais_ answer.' It is to be observed that Hunt is here rather putting
the cart before the horse. Keats (as we shall see immediately) suspected
Shelley and Hunt 'of a wish to see him undervalued' as early as February
1818; but his 'irritable morbidity' when 'hopeless of recovering his
health' belongs to a later date, say the spring and summer of 1820.

It is said that in the spring of 1817 Shelley and Keats agreed that each
of them would undertake an epic, to be written in a space of six months:
Shelley produced _The Revolt of Islam_ (originally entitled _Laon and
Cythna_), and Keats produced _Endymion_. Shelley's poem, the longer of
the two, was completed by the early autumn, while Keats's occupied him
until the winter which opened 1818. On 8th October, 1817, Keats wrote to
a friend, 'I refused to visit Shelley, that I might have my own
unfettered scope; meaning presumably that he wished to finish _Endymion_
according to his own canons of taste and execution, without being
hampered by any advice from Shelley. There is also a letter from Keats
to his two brothers, 22nd December, 1817, saying: 'Shelley's poem _Laon
and Cythna_ is out, and there are words about its being objected to as
much as _Queen Mab_ was. Poor Shelley, I think he has his quota of good
qualities.' As late as February 1818 He wrote, 'I have not yet read
Shelley's poem.' On 23rd January of the same year he had written: 'The
fact is, he [Hunt] and Shelley are hurt, and perhaps justly, at my not
having showed them the affair [_Endymion_ in MS.] officiously; and, from
several hints I have had, they appear much disposed to dissect and
anatomize any trip or slip I may have made.' It was at nearly the same
date, 4th February, that Keats, Shelley, and Hunt wrote each a sonnet on
_The Nile_: in my judgment, Shelley's is the least successful of the

Soon after their marriage, Shelley and his second wife settled at Great
Marlow, in Buckinghamshire. They were shortly disturbed by a Chancery
suit, whereby Mr. Westbrook sought to deprive Shelley of the custody of
his two children by Harriet, Ianthe and Charles. Towards March 1818,
Lord Chancellor Eldon pronounced judgment against Shelley, on the ground
of his culpable conduct as a husband, carrying out culpable opinions
upheld in his writings. The children were handed over to Dr. Hume, an
army-physician named by Shelley: he had to assign for their support a
sum of £120 per annum, brought up to £200 by a supplement from Mr.
Westbrook. About the same date he suffered from an illness which he
regarded as a dangerous pulmonary attack, and he made up his mind to
quit England for Italy; accompanied by his wife, their two infants
William and Clara, Miss Clairmont, and her infant Allegra, who was soon
afterwards consigned to Lord Byron in Venice. Mr. Charles Cowden Clarke,
who was Keats's friend from boyhood, writes: 'When Shelley left England
for Italy, Keats told me that he had received from him an invitation to
become his guest, and in short to make one of his household. It was upon
the purest principle that Keats declined his noble proffer, for he
entertained an exalted opinion of Shelley's genius--in itself an
inducement. He also knew of his deeds of bounty, and from their frequent
social intercourse he had full faith in the sincerity of his
proposal.... Keats said that, in declining the invitation, his sole
motive was the consciousness, which would be ever prevalent with him, of
his being, in its utter extent, not a free agent, even within such a
circle as Shelley's--he himself nevertheless being the most unrestricted
of beings.' Mr. Clarke seems to mean in this passage that Shelley,
_before_ starting for Italy, invited Keats to accompany him thither--a
fact, if such it is, of which I find no trace elsewhere. It is however
just possible that Clarke was only referring to the earlier invitation,
previously mentioned, for Keats to visit at Great Marlow; or he may most
probably, with some confusion as to dates and details, be thinking of
the message which Shelley, when already settled in Italy for a couple of
years, addressed to his brother-poet--of which more anon.

Shelley and his family--including for the most part Miss
Clairmont--wandered about a good deal in Italy. They were in Milan,
Leghorn, the Bagni di Lucca, Venice and its neighbourhood, Rome, Naples,
Florence, Pisa, the Bagni di Pisa, and finally (after Shelley had gone
to Ravenna by himself) in a lonely house named Casa Magni, between
Lerici and San Terenzio, on the Bay of Spezzia. Their two children died;
but in 1819 another was born, the Sir Percy Florence Shelley who lived
on till November 1889. They were often isolated or even solitary. Among
their interesting acquaintances at one place or another were, besides
Byron, Mr. and Mrs. Gisborne (the latter had previously been Mrs.
Reveley, and had been sought in marriage by Godwin after the death of
Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797); the Contessina Emilia Viviani, celebrated
in Shelley's poem of _Epipsychidion_; Captain Medwin, Shelley's cousin
and schoolfellow; the Greek Prince, Alexander Mavrocordato; Lieutenant
and Mrs. Williams, who joined them at Casa Magni; and Edward John
Trelawny, an adventurous and daring sea-rover, who afterwards
accompanied Byron to Greece.

It was only towards the summer of 1819 that Shelley read the _Endymion_.
He wrote of it thus in a letter to his publisher, Mr. Ollier, September
6, 1819. 'I have read ... Keats's poem.... Much praise is due to me for
having read it, the author's intention appearing to be that no person
should possibly get to the end of it. Yet it is full of some of the
highest and the finest gleams of poetry: indeed, everything seems to be
viewed by the mind of a poet which is described in it. I think, if he
had printed about fifty pages of fragments from it, I should have been
led to admire Keats as a poet more than I ought--of which there is now
no danger.' Shelley regarded the Hymn to Pan, in the first Book of
_Endymion_, as affording 'the surest promise of ultimate excellence.'

The health of Keats having broken down, and consumption having set in,
Shelley wrote to him from Pisa urging him to come over to Italy as his
guest. Keats did not however go to Pisa, but, along with the young
painter Joseph Severn, to Naples, and thence to Rome. I here subjoin
Shelley's letter.

'Pisa--27 July, 1820.


'I hear with great pain the dangerous accident you have undergone
[recurrence of blood-spitting from the lungs], and Mr. Gisborne, who
gives me the account of it, adds that you continue to wear a consumptive
appearance. This consumption is a disease particularly fond of people
who write such good verses as you have done, and with the assistance of
an English winter, it can often indulge its selection. I do not think
that young and amiable poets are bound to gratify its taste: they have
entered into no bond with the Muses to that effect. But seriously (for I
am joking on what I am very anxious about) I think you would do well to
pass the winter in Italy, and avoid so tremendous an accident; and, if
you think it as necessary as I do, so long as you continue to find Pisa
or its neighbourhood agreeable to you, Mrs. Shelley unites with myself
in urging the request that you would take up your residence with us. You
might come by sea to Leghorn (France is not worth seeing, and the sea is
particularly good for weak lungs)--which is within a few miles of us.
You ought, at all events, to see Italy; and your health, which I suggest
as a motive, may be an excuse to you. I spare declamation about the
statues and paintings and ruins, and (what is a greater piece of
forbearance) about the mountains and streams, the fields, the colours of
the sky, and the sky itself.

'I have lately read your _Endymion_ again, and even with a new sense of
the treasures of poetry it contains--though treasures poured forth with
indistinct profusion. This people in general will not endure; and that
is the cause of the comparatively few copies which have been sold. I
feel persuaded that you are capable of the greatest things, so you but
will. I always tell Ollier to send you copies of my books. _Prometheus
Unbound_ I imagine you will receive nearly at the same time with this
letter. _The Cenci_ I hope you have already received: it was studiously
composed in a different style.

"Below the _good_ how far! but far above the _great_[3]!"

In poetry I have sought to avoid system and mannerism. I wish those who
excel me in genius would pursue the same plan.

'Whether you remain in England, or journey to Italy, believe that you
carry with you my anxious wishes for your health and success--wherever
you are, or whatever you undertake--and that I am

'Yours sincerely,


Keats's reply to Shelley ran as follows:--

'Hampstead--August 10, 1820.


'I am very much gratified that you, in a foreign country, and with a
mind almost over-occupied, should write to me in the strain of the
letter beside me. If I do not take advantage of your invitation, it will
be prevented by a circumstance I have very much at heart to prophesy[4].
There is no doubt that an English winter would put an end to me, and do
so in a lingering hateful manner. Therefore I must either voyage or
journey to Italy, as a soldier marches up to a battery. My nerves at
present are the worst part of me: yet they feel soothed that, come what
extreme may, I shall not be destined to remain in one spot long enough
to take a hatred of any four particular bedposts.

'I am glad you take any pleasure in my poor poem--which I would
willingly take the trouble to unwrite if possible, did I care so much as
I have done about reputation.

'I received a copy of _The Cenci_, as from yourself, from Hunt. There is
only one part of it I am judge of--the poetry and dramatic effect, which
by many spirits nowadays is considered the Mammon. A modern work, it is
said, must have a purpose; which may be the God. An artist must serve
Mammon: he must have "self-concentration"--selfishness perhaps. You, I
am sure, will forgive me for sincerely remarking that you might curb
your magnanimity, and be more of an artist, and load every rift of your
subject with ore. The thought of such discipline must fall like cold
chains upon you, who perhaps never sat with your wings furled for six
months together. And is not this extraordinary talk for the writer of
_Endymion_, whose mind was like a pack of scattered cards? I am picked
up and sorted to a pip. My imagination is a monastery, and I am its

'I am in expectation of _Prometheus_ every day. Could I have my own wish
effected, you would have it still in manuscript, or be but now putting
an end to the second Act. I remember you advising me not to publish my
first blights, on Hampstead Heath[5]. I am returning advice upon your
hands. Most of the poems in the volume I send you [this was the volume
containing _Lamia, Hyperion_, &c.] have been written above two years[6],
and would never have been published but for hope of gain: so you see I
am inclined enough to take your advice now.

'I must express once more my deep sense of your kindness, adding my
sincere thanks and respects for Mrs. Shelley. In the hope of soon seeing
you I remain

'Most sincerely yours,


It may have been in the interval between writing his note Of invitation
to Keats, and receiving the reply of the latter, that Shelley penned the
following letter to the Editor of the _Quarterly Review_--the periodical
which had taken (or had shared with _Blackwood's Magazine_) the lead in
depreciating _Endymion_. The letter, however, was left uncompleted, and
was not dispatched. (I omit such passages as are not directly concerned
with Keats):--


'Should you cast your eye on the signature of this letter before you
read the contents, you might imagine that they related to a slanderous
paper which appeared in your Review some time since.... I am not in the
habit of permitting myself to be disturbed by what is said or written of
me.... The case is different with the unfortunate subject of this
letter, the author of _Endymion_, to whose feelings and situation I
entreat you to allow me to call your attention. I write considerably in
the dark; but, if it is Mr. Gifford that I am addressing, I am persuaded
that, in an appeal to his humanity and justice, he will acknowledge the
_fas ab hoste doceri_. I am aware that the first duty of a reviewer is
towards the public; and I am willing to confess that the _Endymion_ is a
poem considerably defective, and that perhaps it deserved as much
censure as the pages of your Review record against it. But, not to
mention that there is a certain contemptuousness of phraseology, from
which it Is difficult for a critic to abstain, in the review of
_Endymion_, I do not think that the writer has given it its due praise.
Surely the poem, with all its faults, is a very remarkable production
for a man of Keats's age[7]; and the promise of ultimate excellence is
such as has rarely been afforded even by such as have afterwards
attained high literary eminence. Look at book 2, line 833, &c., and book
3, lines 113 to 120; read down that page, and then again from line
193[8]. I could cite many other passages to convince you that it
deserved milder usage. Why it should have been reviewed at all,
excepting for the purpose of bringing its excellences into notice, I
cannot conceive; for it was very little read, and there was no danger
that it should become a model to the age of that false taste with which
I confess that it is replenished.

'Poor Keats was thrown into a dreadful state of mind by this review,
which, I am persuaded, was not written with any intention of producing
the effect--to which it has at least greatly contributed--of embittering
his existence, and inducing a disease from which there are now but faint
hopes of his recovery. The first effects are described to me to have
resembled insanity, and it was by assiduous watching that he was
restrained from effecting purposes of suicide. The agony of his
sufferings at length produced the rupture of a blood-vessel in the
lungs, and the usual process of consumption appears to have begun. He is
coming to pay me a visit in Italy; but I fear that, unless his mind can
be kept tranquil, little is to be hoped from the mere influence of

'But let me not extort anything from your pity. I have just seen a
second volume, published by him evidently in careless despair. I have
desired my bookseller to send you a copy: and allow me to solicit your
especial attention to the fragment of a poem entitled _Hyperion_, the
composition of which was checked by the review in question. The great
proportion of this piece is surely in the very highest style of poetry.
I speak impartially, for the canons of taste to which Keats has
conformed in his other compositions are the very reverse of my own. I
leave you to judge for yourself: it would be an insult to you to suppose
that, from motives however honourable, you would lend yourself to a
deception of the public.'

The question arises, How did Shelley know what he here states--that
Keats was thrown, by reading the _Quarterly_ article, into a state
resembling insanity, that he contemplated suicide, &c.? Not any document
has been published whereby this information could have been imparted to
Shelley: his chief informant on the subject appears to have been Mr.
Gisborne, who had now for a short while returned to England, and some
confirmation may have come from Hunt. As to the statements themselves,
they have, ever since the appearance in 1848 of Lord Houghton's _Life of
Keats_, been regarded as very gross exaggerations: indeed, I think the
tendency has since then been excessive in the reverse direction, and the
vexation occasioned to Keats by hostile criticism has come to be

Shelley addressed to Keats in Naples another letter, 'anxiously
enquiring about his health, offering him advice as to the adaptation of
diet to the climate, and concluding with an urgent invitation to Pisa,
where he could assure him every comfort and attention.' Shelley did not,
however, re-invite Keats to his own house on the present occasion;
writing to Miss Clairmont, 'We are not rich enough for that sort of
thing.' The letter to Miss Clairmont is dated 18 February, 1821, and
appears to have been almost simultaneous with the one sent to Keats. In
that case, Keats cannot be supposed to have received the invitation; for
he had towards the middle of November quitted Naples for Rome, and by 18
February he was almost at his last gasp.

Shelley's feeling as to Keats's final volume of poems is further
exhibited in the following extracts, (To Thomas Love Peacock, November,
1820.) 'Among the modern things which have reached me is a volume of
poems by Keats; in other respects insignificant enough, but containing
the fragment of a poem called _Hyperion_, I dare say you have not time
to read it; but it is certainly an astonishing piece of writing, and
gives me a conception of Keats which I confess I had not before.' (To
Mrs. Leigh Hunt, 11 November, 1820.) 'Keats's new volume has arrived to
us, and the fragment called _Hyperion_ promises for him that he is
destined to become one of the first writers of the age. His other things
are imperfect enough[9], and, what is worse, written in the bad sort of
style which is becoming fashionable among those who fancy that they are
imitating Hunt and Wordsworth.... Where is Keats now? I am anxiously
expecting him in Italy, when I shall take care to bestow every possible
attention on him. I consider his a most valuable life, and I am deeply
interested in his safety. I intend to be the physician both of his body
and his soul,--to keep the one warm, and to teach the other Greek and
Spanish. I am aware indeed, in part, that I am nourishing a rival who
will far surpass me; and this is an additional motive, and will be an
added pleasure.' (To Peacock, 15 February, 1821.) 'Among your anathemas
of the modern attempts in poetry do you include Keats's _Hyperion_? I
think it very fine. His other poems are worth little; but, if the
_Hyperion_ be not grand poetry, none has been produced by our
contemporaries.' There is also a phrase in a letter to Mr. Ollier,
written on 14 May, 1820, before the actual publication of the _Lamia_
volume: 'Keats, I hope, is going to show himself a great poet; like the
sun, to burst through the clouds which, though dyed in the finest
colours of the air, obscured his rising.'

Keats died in Rome on 23 February, 1821. Soon afterwards Shelley wrote
his _Adonais_. He has left various written references to _Adonais_, and
to Keats in connexion with it: these will come more appropriately when I
speak of that poem itself. But I may here at once quote from the letter
which Shelley addressed on 16 June, 1821, to Mr. Gisborne, who had sent
on to him a letter from Colonel Finch[10], giving a very painful account
of the last days of Keats, and especially (perhaps in more than due
proportion) of the violence of temper which he had exhibited. Shelley
wrote thus: 'I have received the heartrending account of the closing
scene of the great genius whom envy and ingratitude[11] scourged out of
the world. I do not think that, if I had seen it before, I could have
composed my poem. The enthusiasm of the imagination would have
overpowered the sentiment. As it is, I have finished my Elegy; and this
day I send it to the press at Pisa. You shall have a copy the moment it
is completed, I think it will please you. I have dipped my pen in
consuming fire for his destroyers: otherwise the style is calm and

As I have already said, the last residence of Shelley was on the Gulf of
Spezzia. He had a boat built named the Ariel (by Byron, the Don Juan),
boating being his favourite recreation; and on 1 July, 1822, he and
Lieut. Williams, along with a single sailor-lad, started in her for
Leghorn, to welcome there Leigh Hunt. The latter had come to Italy with
his family, on the invitation of Byron and Shelley, to join in a
periodical to be called _The Liberal_. On 8 July Shelley, with his two
companions, embarked to return to Casa Magni. Towards half-past six in
the evening a sudden and tremendous squall sprang up. The Ariel sank,
either upset by the squall, or (as some details of evidence suggest) run
down near Viareggio by an Italian fishing-boat, the crew of which had
plotted to plunder her of a sum of money. The bodies were eventually
washed ashore; and on 16 August the corpse of Shelley was burned on the
beach under the direction of Trelawny. In the pocket of his jacket had
been found two books--a Sophocles, and the _Lamia_ volume, doubled back
as if it had at the last moment been thrust aside. His ashes were
collected, and, with the exception of the heart which was delivered to
Mrs. Shelley, were buried in Rome, in the new Protestant Cemetery. The
corpse of Shelley's beloved son William had, in 1819, been interred hard
by, and in 1821 that of Keats, in the old Cemetery--a space of ground
which had, by 1822, been finally closed.

The enthusiastic and ideal fervour which marks Shelley's poetry could
not possibly be simulated--it was a part, the most essential part, of
his character. He was remarkably single-minded, in the sense of being
constantly ready to do what he professed as, in the abstract, the right
thing to be done; impetuous, bold, uncompromising, lavishly generous,
and inspired by a general love of humankind, and a coequal detestation
of all the narrowing influences of custom and prescription. Pity, which
included self-pity, was one of his dominant emotions. If we consider
what are the uses, and what the abuses, of a character of this type, we
shall have some notion of the excellences and the defects of Shelley. In
person he was well-grown and slim; more nearly beautiful than handsome;
his complexion brilliant, his dark-brown but slightly grizzling hair
abundant and wavy, and his eyes deep-blue, large, and fixed. His voice
was high-pitched--at times discordant, but capable of agreeable
modulation; his general aspect uncommonly youthful.

The roll of Shelley's publications is a long one for a man who perished
not yet thirty years of age. I append a list of the principal ones,
according to date of publication, which was never very distant from that
of composition. Several minor productions remain unspecified.

1810. Zastrozzi, a Romance. Puerile rubbish.

  "   Original Poetry, by Victor and Cazire.
        Withdrawn, and ever since unknown.

  "   Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson.
        Balderdash, partly (it would appear) intended as burlesque.

1811. St. Irvyne, or The Rosicrucian, a Romance.
        No  better than Zastrozzi.

1813. Queen Mab. Didactic and subversive.

1817. Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude, and other Poems.
        The earliest volume fully worthy of its author.

1818. Laon and Cythna--reissued as The Revolt of Islam.
        An epic of revolution and emancipation in the
        Spenserian Stanza.

1819. Rosalind and Helen, a modern Eclogue, and other Poems.
        The character of 'Lionel' is an evident
        idealisation of Shelley himself.

1819. The Cenci, a Tragedy. Has generally been regarded
        as the finest English tragedy of modern date.

  "   Prometheus Unbound, a Lyrical Drama, and other Poems.
        The Prometheus ranks as at once the greatest and the most
        thoroughly characteristic work of Shelley.

1819. Oedipus Tyrannus, or Swellfoot the Tyrant. A
        Satirical Drama on the Trial of Queen Caroline.

1821. Epipsychidion. A poem of ideal love under a human personation.

  "   Adonais.

1822. Hellas. A Drama on the Grecian War of Liberation.

1824. Posthumous Poems. Include Julian and Maddalo,
        written in 1818, The Witch of Atlas, 1820, The
        Triumph of Life, 1822, and many other compositions
        and translations.

The _Masque of Anarchy_ and _Peter Bell the Third_, both written by
Shelley in 1819, were published later on; also various minor poems,
complete or fragmentary. _Peter Bell the Third_ has a certain fortuitous
connexion with Keats. It was written in consequence of Shelley's having
read in _The Examiner_ a notice of _Peter Bell, a Lyrical Ballad_ (the
production of John Hamilton Reynolds): and this notice, as has very
recently been proved, was the handiwork of Keats. Shelley cannot have
been aware of that fact. His prose _Essays and Letters_, including _The
Defence of Poetry_, appeared in 1840. The only known work of Shelley,
extant but yet unpublished, is the _Philosophical View of Reform_: an
abstract of it, with several extracts, was printed in the _Fortnightly
Review_ in 1886.


The parents of John Keats were Thomas Keats, and Frances, daughter of
Mr. Jennings, who kept a large livery-stable, the Swan and Hoop, in the
Pavement, Moorfields, London. Thomas Keats was the principal stableman
or assistant in the same business. John, a seven months' child, was born
at the Swan and Hoop on 31 October, 1795. Three other children grew
up--George, Thomas, and Fanny, John is said to have been violent and
ungovernable in early childhood. He was sent to a very well-reputed
school, that of the Rev. John Clarke, at Enfield: the son Charles Cowden
Clarke, whom I have previously mentioned, was an undermaster, and paid
particular attention to Keats. The latter did not show any remarkable
talent at school, but learned easily, and was 'a very orderly scholar,'
acquiring a fair amount of Latin but no Greek. He was active,
pugnacious, and popular among his school-fellows. The father died of a
fall from his horse in April, 1804: the mother, after re-marrying,
succumbed to consumption in February, 1810. Before the close of the same
year John left school, and he was then apprenticed, to a surgeon at
Edmonton. In July, 1815, he passed with credit the examination at
Apothecaries' Hall.

In 1812 Keats read for the first time Spenser's _Faery Queen_, and was
fascinated with it to a singular degree. This and other poetic reading
made him flag in his surgical profession, and finally he dropped it, and
for the remainder of his life had no definite occupation save that of
writing verse. From his grandparents he inherited a certain moderate sum
of money--not more than sufficient to give him a tolerable start in
life. He made acquaintance with Leigh Hunt, then editor of the
_Examiner_, John Hunt, the publisher, Charles Wentworth Dilke who became
editor of the _Athenaeum_, the painter Haydon, and others. His first
volume of Poems (memorable for little else than the sonnet _On Reading
Chapman's Homer_) was published in 1817. It was followed by _Endymion_
in April, 1818.

In June of the same year Keats set off with his chief intimate, Charles
Armitage Brown (a retired Russia merchant who afterwards wrote a book on
Shakespeare's Sonnets), on a pedestrian tour in Scotland, which extended
into North Ireland as well. In July, in the Isle of Mull, he got a bad
sore throat, of which some symptoms had appeared also in earlier years:
it may be regarded as the beginning of his fatal malady. He cut short
his tour and returned to Hampstead, where he had to nurse his younger
brother Tom, a consumptive invalid, who died in December of the same

At the house of the Dilkes, in the autumn of 1818, Keats made the
acquaintance of Miss Fanny Brawne, the orphan daughter of a gentleman of
independent means: he was soon desperately in love with her, having 'a
swooning admiration of her beauty:' towards the spring of 1819 they
engaged to marry, with the prospect of a long engagement. On the night
of 3 February, 1820, on returning to the house at Hampstead which he
shared with Mr. Brown, the poet had his first attack, a violent one, of
blood-spitting from the lungs. He rallied somewhat, but suffered a
dangerous relapse in June, just prior to the publication of his final
volume, containing all his best poems--_Isabella, Hyperion, the Eve of
St. Agnes, Lamia_, and the leading Odes. His doctor ordered him off, as
a last chance, to Italy; previously to this he had been staying in the
house of Mrs. and Miss Brawne, who tended him affectionately. Keats was
now exceedingly unhappy. His passionate love, his easily roused feelings
of jealousy of Miss Brawne, and of suspicious rancour against even the
most amicable and attached of his male intimates, the general
indifference and the particular scorn and ridicule with which his poems
had been received, his narrow means and uncertain outlook, and the
prospect of an early death closing a painful and harassing illness--all
preyed upon his mind with unrelenting tenacity. The worst of all was the
sense of approaching and probably final separation from Fanny Brawne.

On 18 September, 1820, he left England for Italy, in company with Mr.
Joseph Severn, a student of painting in the Royal Academy, who, having
won the gold medal, was entitled to spend three years abroad for
advancement in his art. They travelled by sea to Naples; reached that
city late in October; and towards the middle of November went on to
Rome. Here Keats received the most constant and kind attention from Dr.
(afterwards Sir James) Clark. But all was of no avail: after continual
and severe suffering, devotedly watched by Severn, he expired on 23
February, 1821. He was buried in the old Protestant Cemetery of Rome,
under a little altar-tomb sculptured with a Greek lyre. His name was
inscribed, along with the epitaph which he himself had composed in the
bitterness of his soul, 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water.'

Keats was an undersized man, little more than five feet high. His face
was handsome, ardent, and full of expression; the hair rich, brown, and
curling; the hazel eyes 'mellow and glowing--large, dark, and
sensitive.' He was framed for enjoyment; but with that acuteness of
feeling which turned even enjoyment into suffering, and then again
extracted a luxury out of melancholy. He had vehemence and generosity,
and the frankness which belongs to these qualities, not unmingled,
however, with a strong dose of suspicion. Apart from the overmastering
love of his closing years, his one ambition was to be a poet. His mind
was little concerned either with the severe practicalities of life, or
with the abstractions of religious faith.

His poems, consisting of three successive volumes, have been already
referred to here. The first volume, the _Poems_ of 1817, is mostly of a
juvenile kind, containing only scattered suggestions of rich endowment
and eventual excellence. _Endymion_ is lavish and profuse, nervous and
languid, the wealth of a prodigal scattered in largesse of baubles and
of gems. The last volume--comprising the _Hyperion_--is the work of a
noble poetic artist, powerful and brilliant both in imagination and in
expression. Of the writings published since their author's death, the
only one of first-rate excellence is the fragmentary _Eve of St. Mark_.
There is also the drama of _Otho the Great_, written in co-operation
with Armitage Brown; and in Keats's letters many admirable thoughts are
admirably worded.

As to the relations between Shelley and Keats, I have to refer back to
the preceding memoir of Shelley.



For nearly two months after the death of Keats, 23 February, 1821,
Shelley appears to have remained in ignorance of the event: he knew it
on or before 19 April. The precise date when he began his Elegy does not
seem to be recorded: one may suppose it to have been in the latter half
of May. On 5 June he wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Gisborne: 'I have been
engaged these last days in composing a poem on the death of Keats, which
will shortly be finished; and I anticipate the pleasure of reading it to
you, as some of the very few persons who will be interested in it and
understand it. It is a highly wrought piece of art, and perhaps better,
in point of composition, than anything I have written.'

A letter to Mr. Ollier followed immediately afterwards.

'Pisa, June 8th, 1821,

'You may announce for publication a poem entitled _Adonais_. It is a
lament on the death of poor Keats, with some interspersed stabs on the
assassins of his peace and of his fame; and will be preceded by a
criticism on _Hyperion_, asserting the due claims which that fragment
gives him to the rank which I have assigned him. My poem is finished,
and consists of about forty Spenser stanzas [fifty-five as published]. I
shall send it to you, either printed at Pisa, or transcribed in such a
manner as it shall be difficult for the reviser to leave such errors as
assist the obscurity of the _Prometheus_. But in case I send it printed,
it will be merely that mistakes may be avoided. I shall only have a few
copies struck off in the cheapest manner. If you have interest enough in
the subject, I could wish that you enquired of some of the friends and
relations of Keats respecting the circumstances of his death, and could
transmit me any information you may be able to collect; and especially
as [to] the degree in which (as I am assured) the brutal attack in the
_Quarterly Review_ excited the disease by which he perished.'

The criticism which Shelley intended to write on _Hyperion_ remained, to
all appearance, unwritten. It will be seen, from the letter of Shelley
to Mr. Severn cited further on (p. 34), that, from the notion of writing
a criticism on _Hyperion_ to precede _Adonais_, his intention developed
into the project of writing a criticism and biography of Keats in
general, to precede a volume of his entire works; but that, before the
close of November, the whole scheme was given up, on the ground that it
would produce no impression on an unregardful public.

In another letter to Ollier, 11 June, the poet says: 'Adonais is
finished, and you will soon receive it. It is little adapted for
popularity, but is perhaps the least imperfect of my compositions.'

Shelley on 16 June caused his Elegy to be printed in Pisa, 'with the
types of Didot': a small quarto, and a handsome one (notwithstanding his
project of cheapness); the introductory matter filling five pages, and
the poem itself going on from p. 7 to p. 25. It appeared in blue paper
wrappers, with a woodcut of a basket of flowers within an ornamental
border. Its price was three and sixpence: of late years £40 has been
given for it--perhaps more. Up to 13 July only one copy had reached the
author's hands: this he then sent on to the Gisbornes, at Leghorn. Some
copies of the Pisa edition were afterwards put into circulation in
London: there was no separate English edition. The Gisbornes having
acknowledged the Elegy with expressions of admiration, the poet replied
as follows:

'Bagni [di Pisa], July 19.


'I am fully repaid for the painful emotions from which some verses of my
poem sprung by your sympathy and approbation; which is all the reward I
expect, and as much as I desire. It is not for me to judge whether, in
the high praise your feelings assign me, you are right or wrong. The
poet and the man are two different natures: though they exist together,
they may be unconscious of each other, and incapable of deciding on each
other's powers and efforts by any reflex act. The decision of the cause
whether or not I am a poet is removed from the present time to the hour
when our posterity shall assemble: but the court is a very severe one,
and I fear that the verdict will be "Guilty--death."'

A letter to Mr. Ollier was probably a little later. It says: 'I send you
a sketch for a frontispiece to the poem _Adonais_. Pray let it be put
into the engraver's hands immediately, as the poem is already on its way
to you, and I should wish it to be ready for its arrival. The poem is
beautifully printed, and--what is of more consequence--correctly:
indeed, it was to obtain this last point that I sent it to the press at
Pisa. In a few days you will receive the bill of lading.' Nothing is
known as to the sketch which Shelley thus sent. It cannot, I presume,
have been his own production, nor yet Severn's: possibly it was supplied
by Lieutenant Williams, who had some aptitude as an amateur artist.

I add some of the poet's other expressions regarding _Adonais_, which he
evidently regarded with more complacency than any of his previous
works--at any rate, as a piece of execution. Hitherto his favourite had
been _Prometheus Unbound_: I am fain to suppose that that great effort
did not now hold a second place in his affections, though he may have
considered that the _Adonais_, as being a less arduous feat, came nearer
to reaching its goal. (To Peacock, August, 1821.) 'I have sent you by
the Gisbornes a copy of the Elegy on Keats. The subject, I know, will
not please you; but the composition of the poetry, and the taste in
which it is written, I do not think bad.' (To Hunt, 26 August.) 'Before
this you will have seen _Adonais_. Lord Byron--I suppose from modesty on
account of his being mentioned in it--did not say a word of
_Adonais_[13], though he was loud in his praise of _Prometheus_, and
(what you will not agree with him in) censure of _The Cenci_.' (To
Horace Smith, 14 September,) 'I am glad you like _Adonais_, and
particularly that you do not think it metaphysical, which I was afraid
it was. I was resolved to pay some tribute of sympathy to the unhonoured
dead; but I wrote, as usual, with a total ignorance of the effect that I
should produce.' (To Ollier, 25 September.) 'The _Adonais_, in spite of
its mysticism, is the least imperfect of my compositions; and, as the
image of my regret and honour for poor Keats, I wish it to be so. I
shall write to you probably by next post on the subject of that poem;
and should have sent the promised criticism for the second edition, had
I not mislaid, and in vain sought for, the volume that contains
_Hyperion_.' (To Ollier, 14 November.) 'I am especially curious to hear
the fate of _Adonais_. I confess I should be surprised if that poem were
born to an immortality of oblivion.' (To Ollier, 11 January, 1822.) 'I
was also more than commonly interested in the success of _Adonais_. I do
not mean the sale, but the effect produced; and I should have [been]
glad to have received some communication from you respecting it. I do
not know even whether it has been published, and still less whether it
has been republished with the alterations I sent.' As to the alterations
sent nothing definite is known, but some details bearing on this point
will be found in our Notes, p. 105, &c. (To Gisborne, 10 April) 'I know
what to think of _Adonais_, but what to think of those who confound it
with the many bad poems of the day I know not.' This expression seems to
indicate that Mr. Gisborne had sent Shelley some of the current
criticisms--there were probably but few in all--upon _Adonais_: to this
matter I shall recur further on. (To Gisborne, 18 June.) 'The _Adonais_
I wished to have had a fair chance, both because it is a favourite with
me, and on account of the memory of Keats--who was a poet of great
genius, let the classic party say what it will.'

Earlier than the latest of these extracts Shelley had sent to Mr. Severn
a copy of _Adonais_, along with a letter which I append.

'Pisa, Nov. 29th, 1821.


'I send you the Elegy on poor Keats, and I wish it were better worth
your acceptance. You will see, by the preface, that it was written
before I could obtain any particular account of his last moments. All
that I still know was communicated to me by a friend who had derived his
information from Colonel Finch, I have ventured [in the Preface] to
express as I felt the respect and admiration which _your_ conduct
towards him demands.

'In spite of his transcendent genius, Keats never was, nor ever will be,
a popular poet; and the total neglect and obscurity in which the
astonishing remains of his mind still lie was hardly to be dissipated by
a writer who, however he may differ from Keats in more important
qualities, at least resembles him in that accidental one, a want of

'I have little hope therefore that the poem I send you will excite any
attention, nor do I feel assured that a critical notice of his writings
would find a single reader. But for these considerations, it had been my
intention to have collected the remnants of his compositions, and to
have published them with a Life and criticism. Has he left any poems or
writings of whatsoever kind, and in whose possession are they? Perhaps
you would oblige me by information on this point.

'Many thanks for the picture you promise me [presumably a portrait of
Keats, but Shelley does not seem ever to have received one from Severn]:
I shall consider it among the most sacred relics of the past. For my
part, I little expected, when I last saw Keats at my friend Leigh
Hunt's, that I should survive him.

'Should you ever pass through Pisa, I hope to have the pleasure of
seeing you, and of cultivating an acquaintance into something pleasant,
begun under such melancholy auspices.

'Accept, my dear Sir, the assurance of my highest esteem, and believe me

'Your most sincere and faithful servant,


'Do you know Leigh Hunt? I expect him and his family here every day.'

It may have been observed that Shelley, whenever he speaks of critical
depreciation of Keats, refers only to one periodical, the _Quarterly
Review_: probably he did not distinctly know of any other: but the fact
is that _Blackwood's Magazine_ was worse than the _Quarterly_. The
latter was sneering and supercilious: _Blackwood_ was vulgarly taunting
and insulting, and seems to have provoked Keats the more of the two,
though perhaps he considered the attack in the _Quarterly_ to be more
detrimental to his literary standing. The _Quarterly_ notice is of so
much import in the life and death of Keats, and in the genesis of
_Adonais_, that I shall give it, practically _in extenso_, before
closing this section of my work: with _Blackwood_ I can deal at once. A
series of articles _On the Cockney School of Poetry_ began in this
magazine in October, 1817, being directed mainly and very venomously
against Leigh Hunt. No. 4 of the series appeared in August, 1818,
falling foul of Keats. It is difficult to say whether the priority in
abusing Keats should of right be assigned to _Blackwood_ or to the
_Quarterly_: the critique in the latter review belongs to the number for
April, 1818, but this number was not actually issued until September.
The writer of the _Blackwood_ papers signed himself Z. Z. is affirmed to
have been Lockhart, the son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, and afterwards
editor of the _Quarterly Review_: more especially the article upon Keats
is attributed to Lockhart. A different account, as to the series in
general, is that the author was John Wilson (Christopher North), revised
by Mr. William Blackwood. But Z. resisted more than one vigorous
challenge to unmask, and some doubt as to his identity may still remain.
Here are some specimens of the amenity with which Keats was treated in
_Blackwood's Magazine_:--

'His friends, we understand, destined him to the career of medicine, and
he was bound apprentice some years ago to a worthy apothecary in
town.... The frenzy of the _Poems_ [Keats's first volume, 1817] was bad
enough in its way; but it did not alarm us half so seriously as the
calm, settled, imperturbable, drivelling idiocy of _Endymion_.... We
hope however that, in so young a person and with a constitution
originally so good, even now the disease is not utterly incurable....
Mr. Hunt is a small poet, but a clever man; Mr. Keats is a still smaller
poet, and he is only a boy of pretty abilities which he has done
everything in his power to spoil.... It is a better and wiser thing to
be a starved apothecary than a starved poet: so back to the shop, Mr.
John, back to "plaster, pills, and ointment-boxes," &c. But for Heaven's
sake, young Sangrado, be a little more sparing of extenuatives and
soporifics in your practice than you have been in your poetry.'

Even the death of Keats, in 1821, did not abate the rancour of
_Blackwood's Magazine_. Witness the following extracts. (1823) 'Keats
had been dished--utterly demolished and dished--by _Blackwood_ long
before Mr. Gifford's scribes mentioned his name.... But let us hear no
more of Johnny Keats. It is really too disgusting to have him and his
poems recalled in this manner after all the world thought they had got
rid of the concern.' (1824) 'Mr. Shelley died, it seems, with a volume
of Mr. Keats's poetry "grasped with one hand in his bosom"--rather an
awkward posture, as you will be convinced if you try it. But what a rash
man Shelley was to put to sea in a frail boat with Jack's poetry on
board!... Down went the boat with a "swirl"! I lay a wager that it
righted soon after ejecting Jack.'... (1826) 'Keats was a Cockney, and
Cockneys claimed him for their own. Never was there a young man so
encrusted with conceit.'

If this is the tone adopted by _Blackwood's Magazine_ in relation to
Keats living and dead, one need not be surprised to find that the
verdict of the same review upon the poem of _Adonais_, then newly
published, ran to the following effect:--

'Locke says the most resolute liar cannot lie more than once in every
three sentences. Folly is more engrossing; for we could prove from the
present Elegy that it is possible to write two sentences of pure
nonsense out of three. A more faithful calculation would bring us to
ninety-nine out of every hundred; or--as the present consists of only
fifty-five stanzas--leaving about five readable lines in the entire....
A Mr. Keats, who had left a decent calling for the melancholy trade of
Cockney poetry, has lately died of a consumption, after having written
two or three little books of verses much neglected by the public.... The
New School, however, will have it that he was slaughtered by a criticism
of the _Quarterly Review_: "O flesh, how art thou fishified!" There is
even an aggravation in this cruelty of the Review--for it had taken
three or four years to slay its victim, the deadly blow having been
inflicted at least as long since. [This is not correct: the _Quarterly_
critique, having appeared in September, 1818, preceded the death of
Keats by two years and five months].... The fact is, the _Quarterly_,
finding before it a work at once silly and presumptuous, full of the
servile _slang_ that Cockaigne dictates to its servitors, and the vulgar
indecorums which that Grub Street Empire rejoiceth to applaud, told the
truth of the volume, and recommended a change of manners[14] and of
masters to the scribbler. Keats wrote on; but he wrote _indecently_,
probably in the indulgence of his social propensities.'

The virulence with which Shelley, as author of _Adonais_, was assailed
by _Blackwood's Magazine_, is the more remarkable, and the more
symptomatic of partizanship against Keats and any of his upholders, as
this review had in previous instances been exceptionally civil to
Shelley, though of course with some serious offsets. The notices of
_Alastor, Rosalind and Helen_, and _Prometheus Unbound_--more especially
the first--in the years 1819 and 1820, would be found to bear out this

From the dates already cited, it may be assumed that the Pisan edition
of _Adonais_ was in London in the hands of Mr. Ollier towards the middle
of August, 1821, purchasable by whoever might be minded to buy it. Very
soon afterwards it was reprinted in the _Literary Chronicle and Weekly
Review_, published by Limbird in the Strand--1 December, 1821: a rather
singular, not to say piratical, proceeding. An editorial note was worded
thus: 'Through the kindness of a friend, we have been favoured with the
latest production of a gentleman of no ordinary genius, Mr. Bysshe
Shelley. It is an elegy on the death of a youthful poet of considerable
promise, Mr. Keats, and was printed at Pisa. As the copy now before us
is perhaps [surely not] the only one that has reached England, and the
subject is one that will excite much interest, we shall print the whole
of it.' This promise was not literally fulfilled, for stanzas 19 to 24
were omitted, not apparently with any special object.

After the publication in London of the Pisan edition of _Adonais_, the
poem remained unreprinted until 1829. It was then issued at Cambridge,
at the instance of Lord Houghton (Mr. Richard Monckton Milnes) and Mr.
Arthur Hallam, the latter having brought from Italy a copy of the
original pamphlet. The Cambridge edition, an octavo in paper wrappers,
is now still scarcer than the Pisan one. The only other separate edition
of _Adonais_ was that of Mr. Buxton Forman, 1876, corresponding
substantially with the form which the poem assumes in the _Complete
Works of Shelley_, as produced by the same editor. It need hardly be
said that _Adonais_ was included in Mrs. Shelley's editions of her
husband's Poems, and in all other editions of any fulness: it has also
appeared in most of the volumes of Selections.

As early as 1830 there was an Italian translation of this Elegy. It is
named _Adone, nella morte di Giovanni Keats, Elegia di Percy Bishe
Shelley, tradotta da L. A. Damaso Pareto_. _Genova, dalla Tifografia
Pellas_, 1830. In this small quarto thirty pages are occupied by a
notice of the life and poetry of Shelley.

I shall not here enter upon a consideration of the cancelled passages of
_Adonais_: they will appear more appositely further on (see pp. 92-94,
&c.). I therefore conclude the present section by quoting the _Quarterly
Review_ article upon _Endymion_--omitting only a few sentences which do
not refer directly to Keats, but mostly to Leigh Hunt:--

'Reviewers have been sometimes accused of not reading the works which
they affected to criticise. On the present occasion we shall anticipate
the author's complaint, and honestly confess that we have not read his
work. Not that we have been wanting in our duty; far from it; indeed, we
have made efforts, almost as superhuman as the story itself appears to
be, to get through it: but, with the fullest stretch of our
perseverance, we are forced to confess that we have not been able to
struggle beyond the first of the four books of which this Poetic Romance
consists. We should extremely lament this want of energy, or whatever it
may be, on our parts, were it not for one consolation--namely, that we
are no better acquainted with the meaning of the book through which we
have so painfully toiled than we are with that of the three which we
have not looked into.

'It is not that Mr. Keats (if that be his real name, for we almost doubt
that any man in his senses would put his real name to such a
rhapsody)--it is not, we say, that the author has not powers of
language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius. He has all these: but he
is unhappily a disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere
called "Cockney Poetry," which may be defined to consist of the most
incongruous ideas in the most uncouth language.

'Of this school Mr. Leigh Hunt, as we observed in a former number,
aspires to be the hierophant.... This author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt,
but he is more unintelligible, almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and
ten times more tiresome and absurd, than his prototype, who, though he
impudently presumed to seat himself in the chair of criticism, and to
measure his own poetry by his own standard, yet generally had a meaning.
But Mr. Keats had advanced no dogmas which he was bound to support by
examples. His nonsense, therefore, is quite gratuitous; he writes it for
its own sake, and, being bitten by Mr. Leigh Hunt's insane criticism,
more than rivals the insanity of his poetry.

'Mr. Keats's preface hints that his poem was produced under peculiar
circumstances. "Knowing within myself." he says, "the manner in which
this poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that
I make it public. What manner I mean will be quite clear to the reader,
who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error
denoting a feverish attempt rather than a deed accomplished." We humbly
beg his pardon, but this does not appear to us to be "quite so clear";
we really do not know what he means. But the next passage is more
intelligible. "The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel
sensible, are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the
press." Thus "the two first books" are, even in his own judgment, unfit
to appear, and "the two last" are, it seems, in the same condition; and,
as two and two make four, and as that is the whole number of books, we
have a clear, and we believe a very just, estimate of the entire work.

'Mr. Keats, however, deprecates criticism on this "immature and feverish
work" in terms which are themselves sufficiently feverish; and we
confess that we should have abstained from inflicting upon him any of
the tortures of the "fierce hell" of criticism[15] which terrify his
imagination if he had not begged to be spared in order that he might
write more; if we had not observed in him a certain degree of talent
which deserves to be put in the right way, or which at least ought to be
warned of the wrong; and if finally he had not told us that he is of an
age and temper which imperiously require mental discipline.

'Of the story we have been able to make out but little. It seems to be
mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana and Endymion;
but of this, as the scope of the work has altogether escaped us, we
cannot speak with any degree of certainty, and must therefore content
ourselves with giving some instances of its diction and versification.
And here again we are perplexed and puzzled. At first it appeared to us
that Mr. Keats had been amusing himself and wearying his readers with an
immeasurable game at _bouts rimés_; but, if we recollect rightly, it is
an indispensable condition at this play that the rhymes, when filled up,
shall have a meaning; and our author, as we have already hinted, has no
meaning. He seems to us to write a line at random, and then he follows,
not the thought excited by this line, but that suggested by the _rhyme_
with which it concludes. There is hardly a complete couplet enclosing a
complete idea in the whole book. He wanders from one subject to another,
from the association, not of ideas, but of sounds; and the work is
composed of hemistichs which, it is quite evident, have forced
themselves upon the author by the mere force of the catchwords on which
they turn.

'We shall select, not as the most striking instance, but as that least
liable to suspicion, a passage from the opening of the poem;--

               "Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils,
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms;
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead," &c.

Here it is clear that the word, and not the idea, _moon_, produces the
simple sheep and their shady _boon_, and that "the _dooms_ of the mighty
dead" would never have intruded themselves but for the "fair musk-rose


"For 'twas the morn. Apollo's upward fire
Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
Of brightness so unsullied that therein
A melancholy spirit well might win
Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
Into the winds. Rain-scented eglantine
Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;
The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run
To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;
Man's voice was on the mountains; and the mass
Of Nature's lives and wonders pulsed tenfold
To feel this sunrise and its glories old."

Here Apollo's _fire_ produces a _pyre_--a silvery pyre--of clouds,
_wherein_ a spirit might _win_ oblivion, and melt his essence _fine_;
and scented _eglantine_ gives sweets to the _sun_, and cold springs had
_run_ into the _grass_; and then the pulse of the _mass_ pulsed
_tenfold_ to feel the glories _old_ of the new-born day, &c.

'One example more:--

"Be still the unimaginable lodge
For solitary thinkings, such as dodge
Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
Then leave the naked brain; be still the leaven
That spreading in this dull and clodded earth,
Gives it a touch ethereal--a new birth."

_Lodge, dodge--heaven, leaven--earth, birth_--such, in six words, is the
sum and substance of six lines.

'We come now to the author's taste in versification. He cannot indeed
write a sentence, but perhaps he may be able to spin a line. Let us see.
The following are specimens of his prosodial notions of our English
heroic metre:--

"Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite.

"So plenteously all weed-hidden roots.

"Of some strange history, potent to send.

"Before the deep intoxication.

"Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion.

"The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepared.

"Endymion, the cave is secreter
Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir
No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise
Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys
And trembles through my labyrinthine hair."

'By this time our readers must be pretty well satisfied as to the
meaning of his sentences and the structure of his lines. We now present
them with some of the new words with which, in imitation of Mr. Leigh
Hunt, he adorns our language.

'We are told that turtles _passion_ their voices; that an arbour was
_nested_, and a lady's locks _gordianed_ up; and, to supply the place of
the nouns thus verbalized, Mr. Keats, with great fecundity, spawns new
ones, such as men-slugs and human _serpentry_, the _honey-feel_ of
bliss, wives prepare _needments_, and so forth.

'Then he has formed new verbs by the process of cutting off their
natural tails, the adverbs, and affixing them to their foreheads. Thus
the wine out-sparkled, the multitude up-followed, and night up-took: the
wind up-blows, and the hours are down-sunken. But, if he sinks some
adverbs in the verbs, he compensates the language with adverbs and
adjectives which he separates from the parent stock. Thus a lady
whispers _pantingly_ and close, makes _hushing_ signs, and steers her
skiff into a _ripply_ cove, a shower falls _refreshfully_, and a vulture
has a _spreaded_ tail.

'But enough of Mr. Leigh Hunt and his simple neophyte. If any one should
be bold enough to purchase this Poetic Romance, and so much more patient
than ourselves as to get beyond the first book, and so much more
fortunate as to find a meaning, we entreat him to make us acquainted
with his success. We shall then return to the task which we now abandon
in despair, and endeavour to make all due amends to Mr. Keats and to our

This criticism is not, I think, exactly what Shelley called it in the
Preface to _Adonais_--'savage:' it is less savage than contemptuous, and
is far indeed from competing with the abuse which was from time to time,
and in various reviews, poured forth upon Shelley himself. It cannot be
denied that some of the blemishes which it points out in _Endymion_ are
real blemishes, and very serious ones. The grounds on which one can
fairly object to the criticism are that its tone is purposely
ill-natured; its recognition of merits scanty out of all proportion to
its censure of defects; and its spirit that of prepense disparagement
founded not so much on the poetical errors of Keats as on the fact that
he was a friend of Leigh Hunt, the literary and also the political
antagonist of the _Quarterly Review_. The editor, Mr. Gifford, seems
always to have been regarded as the author of this criticism--I presume,
correctly so.

That Keats was a friend of Leigh Hunt in the earlier period of his own
poetical career is a fact; but not long after the appearance of the
_Quarterly Review_ article he conceived a good deal of dislike and even
animosity against this literary ally. Possibly the taunts of the
_Quarterly Review_, and the alienation of Keats from Hunt, had some
connexion as cause and effect. In a letter from John Keats to his
brother George and his sister-in-law occurs the following passage[16],
dated towards the end of 1818: 'Hunt has asked me to meet Tom Moore some
day--so you shall hear of him. The night we went to Novello's there was
a complete set-to of Mozart and punning. I was so completely tired of it
that, if I were to follow my own inclinations, I should never meet any
one of that set again; not even Hunt, who is certainly a pleasant fellow
in the main, when you are with him--but in reality he is vain,
egotistical, and disgusting in matters of taste, and in morals. He
understands many a beautiful thing; but then, instead of giving other
minds credit for the same degree of perception as he himself professes,
he begins an explanation in such a curious manner that our taste and
self-love are offended continually. Hunt does one harm by making fine
things petty, and beautiful things hateful. Through him I am indifferent
to Mozart, I care not for white busts; and many a glorious thing, when
associated with him, becomes a nothing. This distorts one's mind--makes
one's thoughts bizarre--perplexes one in the standard of Beauty.'

For the text of _Adonais_ in the present edition I naturally have
recourse to the original Pisan edition, but without neglecting such
alterations as have been properly introduced into later issues; these
will be fully indicated and accounted for in my Notes. In the minor
matters of punctuation, &c., I do not consider myself bound to reproduce
the first or any other edition, but I follow the plan which appears to
myself most reasonable and correct; any point worthy of discussion in
these details will also receive attention in the Notes.



The poem of _Adonais_ can of course be contemplated from different
points of view. Its biographical relations have been already considered
in our preceding sections: its poetical structure and value, its ideal
or spiritual significance, and its particular imagery and diction, will
occupy us much as we proceed. At present I mean simply to deal with the
Argument of _Adonais_. It has a thread--certainly a slender thread--of
narrative or fable; the personation of the poetic figure Adonais, as
distinct from the actual man John Keats, and the incidents with which
that poetic figure is associated. The numerals which I put in
parentheses indicate the stanzas in which the details occur.

(1) Adonais is now dead: the Hour which witnessed his loss mourns him,
and is to rouse the other Hours to mourn. (2) He was the son of the
widowed Urania, (6) her youngest and dearest son. (2) He was slain by a
nightly arrow--'pierced by the shaft which flies in darkness.' At the
time of his death Urania was in her paradise (pleasure-garden),
slumbering, while Echoes listened to the poems which he had written as
death was impending. (3) Urania should now wake and weep; yet wherefore?
'He is gone where all things wise and fair descend.' (4) Nevertheless
let her weep and lament. (7) Adonais had come to Rome. (8) Death and
Corruption are now in his chamber, but Corruption delays as yet to
strike. (9) The Dreams whom he nurtured, as a herdsman tends his flock,
mourn around him, (10) One of them was deceived for a moment into
supposing that a tear shed by itself came from the eyes of Adonais, and
must indicate that he was still alive. (11) Another washed his limbs,
and a third clipped and shed her locks upon his corpse, &c. (13) Then
came others--Desires, Adorations, Fantasies, &c. (14 to 16) Morning
lamented, and Echo, and Spring. (17) Aibion wailed. May 'the curse of
Cain light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast,' and scared away
its angel soul! (20) Can it be that the soul alone dies, when nothing
else is annihilated? (22) Misery aroused Urania: urged by Dreams and
Echoes, she sprang up, and (23) sought the death-chamber of Adonais,
(24) enduring much suffering from 'barbèd tongues, and thoughts more
sharp than they.' (25) As she arrived, Death was shamed for a moment,
and Adonais breathed again: but immediately afterwards 'Death rose and
smiled, and met her vain caress.' (26) Urania would fain have died along
with Adonais; but, chained as she was to Time, this was denied her. (27)
She reproached Adonais for having, though defenceless, dared the dragon
in his den. Had he waited till the day of his maturity, 'the monsters of
life's waste' would have fled from him, as (28) the wolves, ravens, and
vultures had fled from, and fawned upon, 'the Pythian of the age.' (30)
Then came the Mountain Shepherds, bewailing Adonais: the Pilgrim of
Eternity, the Lyrist of lerne, and (31) among others, one frail form, a
pard-like spirit. (34) Urania asked the name of this last Shepherd: he
then made bare his branded and ensanguined brow, which was like Cain's
or Christ's. (35) Another Mountain Shepherd, 'the gentlest of the wise,'
leaned over the deathbed. (36) Adonais has drunk poison. Some 'deaf and
viperous murderer' gave him the envenomed draught.

[I must here point out a singular discrepancy in the poem of _Adonais_,
considered as a narrative or apologue. Hitherto we had been told that
Adonais was killed by an arrow or dart--he was 'pierced by the shaft
which flies in darkness,' and the man who 'pierced his innocent breast'
had incurred the curse of Cain: he had 'a wound' (stanza 22). There was
also the alternative statement that Adonais, unequipped with the shield
of wisdom or the spear of scorn, had been so rash as to 'dare the
unpastured dragon in his den'; and from this the natural inference is
that not any 'shaft which flies in darkness,' but the dragon himself,
had slaughtered the too-venturous youth. But now we hear that he was
done to death by poison. Certainly when we look beneath the symbol into
the thing symbolized, we can see that these divergent allegations
represent the same fact, and the readers of the Elegy are not called
upon to form themselves into a coroner's jury to determine whether a
'shaft' or a 'dragon' or 'poison' was the instrument of murder:
nevertheless the statements in the text are neither identical nor
reconcileable for purposes of mythical narration, and it seems strange
that the author should not have taken this into account. It will be
found as we proceed (see p. 66) that the reference to 'poison' comes
into the poem as a direct reproduction from the Elegy of Moschus upon
Bion--being the passage which forms the second of the two mottoes to

(36) This murderer, a 'nameless worm,' was alone callous to the prelude
of the forthcoming song. (37) Let him live on in remorse and
self-contempt. (38) Neither should we weep that Adonais has 'fled far
from these carrion-kites that scream below.' His spirit flows back to
its fountain, a portion of the Eternal. (39) Indeed, he is not dead nor
sleeping, but 'has awakened from the dream of life.' Not he decays, but
we. (41) Let not us, nor the powers of Nature, mourn for _Adonais_. (42)
He is made one with Nature. (45) In 'the unapparent' he was welcomed by
Chatterton, Sidney, Lucan, and (46) many more immortals, and was hailed
as the master of a 'kingless sphere' in a 'heaven of song.' (48) Let any
rash mourner go to Rome, and (49) visit the cemetery. (53) And thou, my
heart, why linger and shrink? Adonais calls thee: be no longer divided
from him. (55) The soul of Adonais beacons to thee 'from the abode where
the Eternal are.'

This may he the most convenient place for raising a question of leading
importance to the Argument of _Adonais_--Who is the personage designated
under the name Urania?--a question which, so far as I know, has never
yet been mooted among the students of Shelley. Who is Urania? Why is she
represented as the mother of Adonais (Keats), and the chief mourner for
his untimely death?

In mythology the name Urania is assigned to two divinities wholly
distinct. The first is one of the nine Muses, the Muse of Astronomy: the
second is Aphrodite (Venus). We may without any hesitation assume that
Shelley meant one of these two: but a decision, as to which of the two
becomes on reflection by no means so obvious as one might at first
suppose. We will first examine the question as to the Muse Urania.

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 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.

Shelley raises in his poem a very marked contrast between the death of
Adonais (Keats) as a mortal man succumbing to 'the common fate,' and the
immortality of his spirit as a vital immaterial essence surviving the
death of the body: he uses terms such as might be adopted by any
believer in the doctrine of 'the immortality of the soul,' in the
ordinary sense of that phrase. It would not however be safe to infer
that Shelley, at the precise time when he wrote _Adonais_, was really in
a more definite frame of mind on this theme than at other periods of his
life, or of a radically different conviction. As a fact, his feelings on
the great problems of immortality were acute, his opinions regarding
them vague and unsettled. He certainly was not an adherent of the
typical belief on this subject; the belief that a man on this earth is a
combination of body and soul, in a state--his sole state--of
'probation'; that, when the body dies and decays, the soul continues to
be the same absolute individual identity; and that it passes into a
condition of eternal and irreversible happiness or misery, according to
the faith entertained or the deeds done in the body. His belief amounted
more nearly to this: That a human soul is a portion of the Universal
Soul, subjected, during its connexion with the body, to all the
illusions, the dreams and nightmares, of sense; and that, after the
death of the body, it continues to be a portion of the Universal Soul,
liberated, from those illusions, and subsisting in some condition which
the human reason is not capable of defining as a state either of
personal consciousness or of absorption. And, so far as the human being
exercised, during the earthly life, the authentic functions of soul,
that same exercise of function continues to be the permanent record of
the soul in the world of mind. If any reader thinks that this seems a
vague form of belief, the answer is that the belief of Shelley was
indeed a vague one. In the poem of _Adonais_ it remains, to my
apprehension, as vague as in his other writings: but it assumes a shape
of greater definition, because the poem is, by its scheme and intent, a
personating poem, in which the soul of Keats has to be greeted by the
soul of Chatterton, just as the body of Adonais has to be caressed and
bewailed by Urania. Using language of a semi-emblematic kind, we might
perhaps express something of Shelley's belief thus:--Mankind is the
microcosm, as distinguished from the rest of the universe, which forms
the macrocosm; and, as long as a man's body and soul remain in
combination, his soul pertains to the microcosm: when this combination
ceases with the death of the body, his soul, in whatever sense it may be
held to exist, lapses into the macrocosm, but there is neither knowledge
as to the mode of its existence, nor speech capable of recording this.

As illustrating our poet's conceptions on these mysterious subjects, I
append extracts from three of his prose writings. The first extract
comes from his fragment _On Life_, which may have been written (but this
is quite uncertain) towards 1815; the second from his fragment _On a
Future State_, for which some similar date is suggested; the third from
the notes to his drama of _Hellas_, written in 1821, later than

(1) 'The most refined abstractions of logic conduct to a view of Life
which, though startling to the apprehension, is in fact that which the
habitual sense of its repeated combinations has extinguished in us. It
strips, as it were, the painted curtain from this scene of things. I
confess that I am one of those who am unable to refuse my assent[17] to
the conclusions of those philosophers who assert that nothing exists but
as it is perceived. It is a decision against which all our persuasions
struggle--and we must be long convicted before we can be convinced that
the solid universe of external things is "such stuff as dreams are made
of." The shocking absurdities of the popular philosophy of mind and
matter, its fatal consequences in morals, and their [? the] violent
dogmatism concerning the source of all things, had early conducted me to
Materialism. This Materialism is a seducing system to young and
superficial minds: it allows its disciples to talk, and dispenses them
from thinking. But I was discontented with such a view of things as it
afforded. Man is a being of high aspirations, "looking both before and
after," whose "thoughts wander through eternity," disclaiming alliance
with transcience and decay; incapable of imagining to himself
annihilation; existing but in the future and the past; being, not what
he is, but what he has been and shall be. Whatever may be his true and
final destination, there is a spirit within him at enmity with
nothingness and dissolution. This is the character of all life and
being. Each is at once the centre and the circumference; the point to
which all things are referred, and the line in which all things are
contained. Such contemplations as these Materialism, and the popular
philosophy of mind and matter, alike forbid: they are only consistent
with the Intellectual System.... The view of Life presented by the most
refined deductions of the Intellectual Philosophy is that of unity.
Nothing exists but as it is perceived. The difference is merely nominal
between those two classes of thought which are vulgarly distinguished by
the names of "ideas" and of "external objects." Pursuing the same thread
of reasoning, the existence of distinct individual minds, similar to
that which is employed in now questioning its own nature, is likewise
found to be a delusion. The words "I, you, they," are not signs of any
actual difference subsisting between the assemblage of thoughts thus
indicated, but are merely marks employed to denote the different
modifications of the one mind. Let it not be supposed that this doctrine
conducts to the monstrous presumption that I, the person who now write
and think, am that one mind. I am but a portion of it.'

(2) 'Suppose however that the intellectual and vital principle differs
in the most marked and essential manner from all other known substances;
that they have all some resemblance between themselves which _it_ in no
degree participates. In what manner can this concession be made an
argument for its imperishability? All that we see or know perishes[18]
and is changed. Life and thought differ indeed from everything else: but
that it survives that period beyond which we have no experience of its
existence such distinction and dissimilarity affords no shadow of proof,
and nothing but our own desires could have led us to conjecture or
imagine. Have we existed before birth? It is difficult to conceive the
possibility of this.... If we have _not_ existed before birth; if, at
the period when the parts of our nature on which thought and life depend
seem to be woven together, they _are_ woven together; if there are no
reasons to suppose that we have existed before that period at which our
existence apparently commences; then there are no grounds for
supposition that we shall continue to exist after our existence has
apparently ceased. So far as thought and life is concerned, the same
will take place with regard to us, individually considered, after death,
as had place before our birth. It is said that it is possible that we
should continue to exist in some mode totally inconceivable to us at
present. This is a most unreasonable presumption.... Such assertions ...
persuade indeed only those who desire to be persuaded. This desire to be
for ever as we are--the reluctance to a violent and unexperienced change
which is common to all the animated and inanimate combinations of the
universe--is indeed the secret persuasion which has given birth to the
opinions of a Future State.'

(3. Note to the chorus, 'Worlds on worlds are rolling ever,' &c.) 'The
first stanza contrasts the immortality of the living and thinking beings
which inhabit the planets and (to use a common and inadequate phrase)
clothe themselves in matter, with the transcience of the noblest
manifestations of the external world. The concluding verses indicate a
progressive state of more or less exalted existence, according to the
degree of perfection which every distinct intelligence may have
attained. Let it not be supposed that I mean to dogmatise upon a subject
concerning which all men are equally ignorant, or that I think the
Gordian knot of the origin of evil can be disentangled by that or any
similar assertions.... That there is a true solution of the riddle, and
that in our present state that solution is unattainable by us, are
propositions which may be regarded as equally certain: meanwhile, as it
is the province of the poet to attach himself to those ideas which exalt
and ennoble humanity, let him be permitted to have conjectured the
condition of that futurity towards which we are all impelled by an
inextinguishable thirst for immortality. Until better arguments can be
produced than sophisms which disgrace the cause, this desire itself must
remain the strongest and the only presumption that eternity is the
inheritance of every thinking being.'

The reader will perceive that in these three passages the dominant
ideas, very briefly stated, are as follows:--(1) Mind is the aggregate
of all individual minds; (2) man has no reason for expecting that his
mind or soul will be immortal; (3) no reason, except such as inheres in
the very desire which he feels for immortality. These opinions,
deliberately expressed by Shelley at different dates as a theorist in
prose, should be taken into account if we endeavour to estimate what he
means when, as a poet, he speaks, whether in _Hellas_ or in _Adonais_,
of an individual, his mind and his immortality. When Shelley calls upon
us to regard Keats (Adonais) as mortal in body but immortal in soul or
mind, his real intent is probably limited to this: that Keats has been
liberated, by the death of the body, from the dominion and delusions of
the senses; and that he, while in the flesh, developed certain fruits of
mind which survive his body, and will continue to survive it
indefinitely, and will form a permanent inheritance of thought and of
beauty to succeeding generations. Keats himself, in one of his most
famous lines, expressed a like conception,

'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.'

Shelley was faithful to his canons of highest literary or poetical form
in giving a Greek shape to his elegy on Keats; but it may be allowed to
his English readers, or at any rate to some of them, to think that he
hereby fell into a certain degree of artificiality of structure,
undesirable in itself, and more especially hampering him in a plain and
self-consistent expression both of his real feeling concerning Keats,
and of his resentment against those who had cut short, or were supposed
to have cut short, the career and the poetical work of his friend.
Moreover Shelley went beyond the mere recurrence to Greek forms of
impersonation and expression: he took two particular Greek authors, and
two particular Greek poems, as his principal model. These two poems are
the Elegy of Bion on Adonis, and the Elegy of Moschus on Bion. To
imitate is not to plagiarize; and Shelley cannot reasonably be called a
plagiarist because he introduced into _Adonais_ passages which are
paraphrased or even translated from Bion and Moschus. It does seem
singular however that neither in the _Adonais_ volume nor in any of his
numerous written remarks upon the poem does Shelley ever once refer to
this state of the facts. Possibly in using the name 'Adonais' he
intended to refer the reader indirectly to the 'Adonis' of Bion; and he
prefixed to the preface of his poem, as a motto, four verses from the
Elegy of Moschus upon Bion. This may have been intended for a hint to
the reader as to the Grecian sources of the poem. The whole matter will
receive detailed treatment in our next section, as well as in the Notes.

The passages of _Adonais_ which can be traced back to Bion and Moschus
are not the finest things in the poem: mostly they fill out its fabular
'argument' with brilliancy and suavity, rather than with nerve and
pathos. The finest things are to be found in the denunciation of the
'deaf and viperous murderer;' in the stanzas concerning the 'Mountain
Shepherds,' especially the figure representing Shelley himself; and in
the solemn and majestic conclusion, where the poet rises from the region
of earthly sorrow into the realm of ideal aspiration and contemplation.

Shelley is generally--and I think most justly--regarded as a peculiarly
melodious versifier: but it must not be supposed that he is rigidly
exact in his use of rhyme. The contrary can be proved from the entire
body of his poems. _Adonais_ is, in this respect, neither more nor less
correct than his other writings. It would hardly be reasonable to
attribute his laxity in rhyming to either carelessness, indifference, or
unskilfulness: but rather to a deliberate preference for a certain
variety in the rhyme-sounds--as tending to please the ear, and availing
to satisfy it in the total effect, without cloying it by any tight-drawn
uniformity. Such a preference can be justified on two grounds: firstly,
that the general effect of the slightly varied sounds is really the more
gratifying of the two methods, and I believe that, practised within
reasonable limits, it is so; and secondly, that the requirements of
sense are superior to those of sound, and that, in the effort after
severely exact rhyming, a writer would often, be compelled to sacrifice
some delicacy of thought, or some grace or propriety of diction. Looking
through the stanzas of _Adonais_, I find the following laxities of
rhyming: Compeers, dares; anew, knew (this repetition of an identical
syllable as if it were a rhyme is very frequent with Shelley, who
evidently considered it to be permissible, and even right--and in this
view he has plenty of support): God; road; last, waste; taught, not;
break, cheek (two instances); ground, moaned; both, youth; rise, arise;
song, stung; steel, fell; light, delight; part, depart; wert, heart;
wrong, tongue; brow, so; moan, one; crown, tone; song, unstrung; knife,
grief; mourn, burn; dawn, moan; bear, bear; blot, thought; renown,
Chatterton; thought, not; approved, reproved; forth, earth; nought, not;
home, tomb; thither, together; wove, of; riven, heaven. These are 34
instances of irregularity. The number of stanzas in _Adonais_ is 55:
therefore there is more than one such irregularity for every two

It may not be absolutely futile if we bestow a little more attention
upon the details of these laxities of rhyme. The repetition of an
identical syllable has been cited 6 times. In 4 instances the sound of
_taught_ is assimilated to that of _not_ (I take here no account of
differences of spelling, but only of the sounds); in 4, the sound of
_ground_ and of _renown_ to that of _moaned_, or of _Chatterton_; in 2,
the sound of _o_ in _road, both_, and _wove_, to that in _God, youth_,
and _of_; in 3, the sound of _song_ to that of _stung_; in 2, the sound
of _ee_ in _compeers, steel, cheek_, and _grief_, to that in _dares,
fell, break_ and _knife_; in 2, the sound of _e_ in _wert_ and _earth_
to that in _heart_ and _forth_; in 3, the sound of _o_ in _moan_ and
_home_ to that in _one, dawn_, and _tomb_; in 2, the sound of _thither_
to that of _together_. The other cases which I have cited have only a
single instance apiece. It results therefore that the vowel-sound
subjected to the most frequent variations is that of _o_, whether single
or in combination.

Shelley may be considered to allow himself more than an average degree
of latitude in rhyming: but it is a fact that, if the general body of
English poetry is scrutinized, it will be found to be more or less lax
in this matter. This question is complicated by another question--that
of how words were pronounced at different periods in our literary
history: in order to exclude the most serious consequent difficulties, I
shall say nothing here about any poet prior to Milton. I take at
haphazard four pages of rhymed verse from each of the following six
poets, and the result proves to be as follows:--

_Milton._--Pass, was; feast, rest; come, room; still, invisible;
vouchsafe, safe; moon, whereon; ordained, land. 7 instances.

_Dryden._--Alone, fruition; guard, heard; pursued, good: procured,
secured, 4 instances.

_Pope._--Given, heaven; steer, character; board, lord; fault, thought;
err, singular. 5 instances.

_Gray._--Beech, stretch; borne, thorn; abode, God; broke, rock, 4

_Coleridge._--Not a single instance.

_Byron._--Given, heaven; Moore, yore; look, duke; song, tongue; knot,
not; of, enough; bestowed, mood. 7 instances.

In all these cases, as in that of Shelley's _Adonais_, I have taken no
count of those instances of lax sound-rhyme which are correct
letter-rhyme--such as the coupling of _move_ with _love_, or of _star_
with _war_; for these, however much some more than commonly purist ears
may demur to them, appear to be part and parcel of the rhyming system of
the English language. I need hardly say that, if these cases had been
included, my list would in every instance have swelled considerably; nor
yet that I am conscious how extremely partial and accidental is the
test, as to comparative number of laxities, which I have here supplied.

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.
             ... Aphrodite
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

'The flowers flush red for anguish.... This kiss will I treasure, even
as thyself, Adonis, since, ah ill-fated! thou art fleeing me,... while
wretched I yet live, being a goddess, and may not follow thee.
Persephone, take thou my lover, my lord, for thyself art stronger than
I, and all lovely things drift down to thee.... For why ah overbold!
didst thou follow the chase, and, being so fair, why wert thou thus
over-hardy to fight with beasts?... A tear the Paphian sheds for each
blood-drop of Adonis, and tears and blood on the earth are turned to
flowers.... Ah even in death he is beautiful, beautiful in death, as one
that hath fallen on sleep.... All things have perished in his death, yea
all the flowers are faded.... He reclines, the delicate Adonis, in his
raiment of purple, and around him the Loves are weeping and groaning
aloud, clipping their locks for Adonis. And one upon his shafts, another
on his bow, is treading, and one hath loosed the sandal of Adonis, and
another hath broken his own feathered quiver, and one in a golden vessel
bears water, and another laves the wound, and another, from behind him,
with his wings is fanning Adonis.... Thou must again bewail him, again
must weep for him another year.... He does not heed them [the Muses];
not that he is doth to hear, but that the Maiden of Hades doth not let
him go.'

The next-ensuing passages come from the Elegy of Moschus for Bion:--

'Ye flowers, now in sad clusters breathe yourselves away. Now redden, ye
roses, in your sorrow, and now wax red, ye wind-flowers; now, thou
hyacinth, whisper the letters on thee graven, and add a deeper ai ai to
thy petals: he is dead, the beautiful singer.... Ye nightingales that
lament among the thick leaves of the trees, tell ye to the Sicilian
waters of Arethusa the tidings that Bion the herdsman is dead.... Thy
sudden doom, O Bion, Apollo himself lamented, and the Satyrs mourned
thee, and the Priapi in sable raiment, and the Panes sorrow for thy
song, and the Fountain-fairies in the wood made moan, and their tears
turned to rivers of waters. And Echo in the rocks laments that thou art
silent, and no more she mimics thy voice. And in sorrow for thy fall the
trees cast down their fruit, and all the flowers have faded.... Nor ever
sang so sweet the nightingale on the cliffs,... nor so much, by the grey
sea-waves, did ever the sea-bird sing, nor so much in the dells of dawn
did the bird of Memnon bewail the son of the Morning, fluttering around
his tomb, as they lamented for Bion dead.... Echo, among the reeds, doth
still feed upon thy songs.... This, O most musical of rivers, is thy
second sorrow,--this, Meles, thy new woe. Of old didst thou lose
Homer:... now again another son thou weepest, and in a new sorrow art
thou wasting away.... Nor so much did pleasant Lesbos mourn for Alcaeus,
nor did the Teian town so greatly bewail her poet,... and not for Sappho
but still for thee doth Mitylene wail her musical lament.... Ah me! when
the mallows wither in the garden, and the green parsley, and the curled
tendrils of the anise, on a later day they live again, and spring In
another year: but we men, we the great and mighty or wise, when once we
have died, in hollow earth we sleep, gone down into silence.... Poison
came, Bion, to thy mouth--thou didst know poison. To such lips as thine
did it come, and was not sweetened? What mortal was so cruel that could
mix poison for thee, or who could give thee the venom that heard thy
voice? Surely he had no music in his soul,... But justice hath overtaken
them all.'

Bion was born in Smyrna, or in a neighbouring village named Phlossa, and
may have died at some date not far from 250 B.C. The statement of
Moschus that Bion was poisoned by certain enemies appears to be intended
as an assertion of actual fact. Of Moschus nothing distinct is known,
beyond his being a native of Sicily.



Author of _Endymion, Hyperion,_ etc.


Astaer prin men elampes eni zooisin eoos.
Nun de thanon lampeis esperos en phthimenois.]




Pharmakon  aelthe Bion poti son stoma, pharmakon eides.
Pos teu tois cheilessi potedrame kouk eglukanthae;
Tis de Brotos tossouton anameros ae kerasai toi,
Ae dounai laleonti to pharmakon; ekphugen odan.]


It is my intention to subjoin to the London edition of this poem a
criticism upon the claims of its lamented object to be classed among the
writers of the highest genius who have adorned our age. 15 My known
repugnance to the narrow principles of taste on which several of his
earlier compositions were modelled proves at least that I am an
impartial judge. I consider the fragment of _Hyperion_ as second to
nothing that was ever produced by a writer of the same years. 20

John Keats died at Rome of a consumption, in his twenty-fourth year, on
the [23rd] of [February] 1821; and was buried in the romantic and lonely
cemetery of the protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the
tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now mouldering and
desolate, which formed the circuit of 25 ancient Rome. The cemetery is
an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and
daisies. It might make one in love with death to think that one should
be buried in so sweet a place.

30 The genius of the lamented person to whose memory I have dedicated
these unworthy verses was not less delicate and fragile than it was
beautiful; and, where canker-worms abound, what wonder if its young
flower was blighted in the bud? The savage criticism on his _Endymion_
which appeared in the _Quarterly Review_ produced the 35 most violent
effect on his susceptible mind. The agitation thus originated ended in
the rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs; a rapid consumption ensued;
and the succeeding acknowledgments, from more candid critics, of the
true greatness of his powers, were ineffectual to heal the wound thus
wantonly inflicted.

40 It may be well said that these wretched men know not what they do.
They scatter their insults and their slanders without heed as to whether
the poisoned shaft lights on a heart made callous by many blows, or one,
like Keats's, composed of more penetrable stuff. One of their associates
is, to my knowledge, a most base and unprincipled 45 calumniator. As to
_Endymion_, was it a poem, whatever might be its defects, to be treated
contemptuously by those who had celebrated with various degrees of
complacency and panegyric _Paris_, and _Woman_ and _A Syrian Tale_, and
Mrs. Lefanu, and Mr. Barrett, and Mr. Howard Payne, and a long list of
the illustrious 50 obscure? Are these the men who, in their venal
good-nature, presumed to draw a parallel between the Rev. Mr. Milman and
Lord Byron? What gnat did they strain at here, after having swallowed
all those camels? Against what woman taken in adultery dares the
foremost of these literary prostitutes to cast his opprobrious stone? 55
Miserable man! you, one of the meanest, have wantonly defaced one of the
noblest, specimens of the workmanship of God. Nor shall it be your
excuse that, murderer as you are, you have spoken daggers, but used

The circumstances of the closing scene of poor Keats's life were 60 not
made known to me until the Elegy was ready for the press. I am given to
understand that the wound which his sensitive spirit had received from
the criticism of _Endymion_ was exasperated by the bitter sense of
unrequited benefits; the poor fellow seems to have been hooted from the
stage of life, no less by those on whom 65 he had wasted the promise of
his genius than those on whom he had lavished his fortune and his care.
He was accompanied to Rome, and attended in his last illness, by Mr.
Severn, a young artist of the highest promise, who, I have been
informed, 'almost risked his own life, and sacrificed every prospect to
unwearied attendance upon his dying friend.' Had I known these
circumstances before the completion 70 of my poem, I should have been
tempted to add my feeble tribute of applause to the more solid
recompense which the virtuous man finds in the recollection of his own
motives. Mr. Severn can dispense with a reward from 'such stuff as
dreams are made of.' His conduct is a golden augury of the success of
his future career. 75 May the unextinguished spirit of his illustrious
friend animate the creations of his pencil, and plead against oblivion
for his name!



  I weep for Adonais--he is dead!
    Oh 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,        5
  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.'


  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 veilèd eyes,
    'Mid listening Echoes, in her paradise                 5
  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.


  Oh 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;           5
  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.


  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,          5
  Trampled and mocked with many a loathèd 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.


  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,          5
  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.


  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!              5
  Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,
    The bloom whose petals, nipt before they blew,
  Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste;
The broken lily lies--the storm is overpast.


  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        5
  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.


  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;        5
  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.


  Oh weep for Adonais!--The quick Dreams,
    The passion-wingèd 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--            5
  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.


  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           5
  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.


  One from a lucid urn of starry dew
    Washed his light limbs, as if embalming them;
  Another dipt her profuse locks, and threw
    The wreath upon him, like an anadem
    Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem;            5
  Another in her wilful grief would break
    Her bow and wingèd reeds, as if to stem
  A greater loss with one which was more weak,
And dull the barbèd fire against his frozen cheek.


  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      5
  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.


  And others came,--Desires and Adorations,
    Wingèd Persuasions, and veiled Destinies,
  Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering incarnations
    Of Hopes and Fears, and twilight Phantasies;
    And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,                5
  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.


  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,      5
  Dimmed the aerial 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.


  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;        5
  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.


  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,                5
  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.


  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 young with morning, doth complain,        5
  Soaring and screaming round her empty nest,
    As Albion 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!


  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, re-appear;
    Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Seasons' bier;    5
  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.


  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 steam immersed,              5
  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 renewèd might.


  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.              5
  Nought we know dies: shall that alone which knows
    Be as a sword consumed before the sheath
  By sightless lightning? Th' intense atom glows
A moment, then is quenched in a most cold repose.


  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             5
  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.


  _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,       5
  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.


  She rose like an autumnal Night that springs
    Out 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         5
  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.


  Out 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.              5
  And barbèd 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.


  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.     5
  '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.


  '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,                   5
  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.


  '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            5
  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.


  '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,       5
  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.


  '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:                  5
  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.'


  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,                     5
  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.


  '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              5
  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.


  A pard-like 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,                5
  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.


  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,          5
  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.


  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 sang new sorrow; sad Urania scanned               5
  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!


  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?              5
  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.


  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              5
  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.


  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                    5
  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.


  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       5
  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.


  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      5
  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.


  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          5
  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.


  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!             5
  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!


  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,          5
  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.


  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;              5
  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 heaven's light.


  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           5
  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.


  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            5
  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.


  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;            5
  'It was for thee yon kingless sphere has long
    Swung blind in unascended majesty,
  Silent alone amid an heaven of song.
Assume thy wingèd throne, thou Vesper of our throng!'


  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          5
  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.


  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            5
  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.


  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,                 5
  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.


  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               5
  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.


  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        5
  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?


  The One remains, the many change and pass;
    Heaven's light for ever 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,          5
  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.


  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 past from the revolving year,
    And man and woman; and what still is dear            5
  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.


  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         5
  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.


  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 spherèd skies are riven!         5
  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.



The expression of my indignation and sympathy. I will allow myself a
first and last word on the subject of calumny as it relates to me. As an
author I have dared and invited censure. If I understand myself, I have
written neither for profit nor for fame: I have employed my poetical
compositions and publications simply as the instruments of that sympathy
between myself and others which the ardent and unbounded love I
cherished for my kind incited me to acquire. I expected all sorts of
stupidity and insolent contempt from those.... These compositions
(excepting the tragedy of _The Cenci_, which was written rather to try
my powers than to unburden my full heart) are insufficiently....
Commendation then perhaps they deserve, even from their bitterest
enemies; but they have not obtained any corresponding popularity. As a
man, I shrink from notice and regard: the ebb and flow of the world
vexes me: I desire to be left in peace. Persecution, contumely, and
calumny, have been heaped upon me in profuse measure; and domestic
conspiracy and legal oppression have violated in my person the most
sacred rights of nature and humanity. The bigot will say it was the
recompense of my errors--the man of the world will call it the result of
my imprudence: but never upon one head....

Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant
race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair, so an
unsuccessful author turns critic. But a young spirit panting for fame,
doubtful of its powers, and certain only of its aspirations, is
ill-qualified to assign its true value to the sneer of this world. He
knows not that such stuff as this is of the abortive and monstrous
births which time consumes as fast as it produces. He sees the truth and
falsehood, the merits and demerits, of his case, inextricably
entangled.... No personal offence should have drawn from me this public
comment upon such stuff.

The offence of this poor victim seems to have consisted solely in his
intimacy with Leigh Hunt, Mr. Hazlitt, and some other enemies of
despotism and superstition. My friend Hunt has a very hard skull to
crack, and will take a deal of killing. I do not know much of Mr.
Hazlitt, but....

I knew personally but little of Keats; but, on the news of his
situation, I wrote to him, suggesting the propriety of trying the
Italian climate, and inviting him to join me. Unfortunately he did not
allow me.

       *       *       *       *       *


  And the green paradise which western waves
    Embosom in their ever-wailing sweep,--
  Talking of freedom to their tongueless caves,
    Or to the spirits which within them keep
    A record of the wrongs which, though they sleep,       5
  Die not, but dream of retribution,--heard
    His hymns, and echoing them from steep to steep,

       *       *       *       *       *


  And ever as he went he swept a lyre
    Of unaccustomed shape, and ... strings
  Now like the ... of impetuous fire
    Which shakes the forest with its murmurings,
    Now like the rush of the aërial wings                  5
  Of the enamoured wind among the treen,
    Whispering unimaginable things,
  And dying on the streams of dew serene
Which feed the unmown meads with ever-during green.


  And then came one of sweet and earnest looks,
    Whose soft smiles to his dark and night-like eyes
  Were as the clear and ever-living brooks
    Are to the obscure fountains whence they rise,
    Showing how pure they are: a paradise                  5
  Of happy truth upon his forehead low
    Lay, making wisdom lovely, in the guise
  Of earth-awakening morn upon the brow
Of star-deserted heaven while ocean gleams below.


  His song, though very sweet, was low and faint,
    A simple strain.

       *       *       *       *       *


      A mighty Phantasm, half concealed
    In darkness of his own exceeding light,
  Which clothed his awful presence unrevealed,
    Charioted on the ... night
    Of thunder-smoke, whose skirts were chrysolite.       5


  And like a sudden meteor which outstrips
    The splendour-wingèd chariot of the sun,
                                   ... eclipse
    The armies of the golden stars, each one
    Pavilioned in its tent of light--all strewn           5
  Over the chasms of blue night--



Line 1. _Adonais_. There is nothing to show positively why Shelley
adopted the name Adonais as a suitable Hellenic name for John Keats. I
have already suggested (p. 59) that he may perhaps have wished to
indicate, in this indirect way, that his poem was founded partly upon
the Elegy of Bion for Adonis. I believe the name Adonais was not really
in use among the Greeks, and is not anywhere traceable in classical
Grecian literature. It has sometimes been regarded as a Doricized form
of the name Adonis: Mr. William Cory says that it is not this, but would
properly be a female form of the same name. Dr. Furnivall has suggested
to me that Adonais is 'Shelley's variant of Adonias, the women's yearly
mourning for Adonis.' Disregarding details, we may perhaps say that the
whole subject of his Elegy is treated by Shelley as a transposition of
the lament, as conceived by Bion, of the Cyprian Aphrodite for Adonis;
and that, as he changes the Cyprian into the Uranian Aphrodite, so he
changes the dead youth from Adonis into Adonais.

1. 4. _Motto from the poet Plato_. This motto has been translated
by Shelley himself as follows:

'Thou wert the morning star among the living,
  Ere thy fair light had fled:--
Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving
  New splendour to the dead.'

1. 8. _Motto from Moschus_. Translated on p. 66, 'Poison came, Bion,'

1. 13. _It is my intention to subjoin to the London edition of this poem
a criticism_, &c. As to the non-fulfilment of this intention see p. 31.

1. 16. _My known repugnance ... proves at least_. In the Pisa edition
the word is printed 'prove' (not 'proves'). Shelley was far from being
an exact writer in matters of this sort.

1. 21. _John Keats died ... in his twenty-fourth year, on the [23rd] of
[February]_ 1821. Keats, at the time of his death, was not really in his
twenty-fourth, but in his twenty-sixth year: the date of his birth was
31 October, 1795. In the Pisa edition of _Adonais_ the date of death is
given thus--'the----of----1821': for Shelley, when he wrote his preface,
had no precise knowledge of the facts. In some later editions, 'the 27th
of December 1820' was erroneously substituted. Shelley's mistake in
supposing that Keats, in 1821, was aged only twenty-three, may be taken
into account in estimating his previous observation, 'I consider the
fragment of _Hyperion_ as second to nothing that was ever produced by a
writer of the same years.' Keats, writing in August, 1820, had told
Shelley (see p. 17) that some of his poems, perhaps including
_Hyperion_, had been written 'above two years' preceding that date. If
Shelley supposed that Keats was twenty-three years old at the beginning
of 1821, and that _Hyperion_ had been written fully two years prior to
August, 1820, he must have accounted that poem to be the product of a
youth of twenty, or at most twenty-one, which would indeed be a
marvellous instance of precocity. As a matter of fact, _Hyperion_ was
written by Keats when in his twenty-fourth year. This diminishes the
marvel, but does not make Shelley's comment on the poem any the less

1. 22. _Was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the
Protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of
Cestius._ As to the burial of the ashes of Shelley himself in a separate
portion of the same cemetery, see p. 23. Shelley lies nearer than Keats
to the pyramid of C. Cestius.

1. 33. _The savage criticism on his_ Endymion _which appeared in the_
Quarterly Review. As to this matter see the prefatory Memoirs of Shelley
and of Keats, and especially, at p. 39 &c., a transcript of the

1. 35. _The agitation thus originated ended in the rupture of a blood
vessel in the lungs._ See pp. 27 and 37, The _Quarterly_ critique was
published in September 1818, and the first rupture of a blood-vessel
occurred in February 1820. Whether the mortification felt by Keats at
the critique was small (as is now generally opined) or great (as Shelley
thought), it cannot reasonably be propounded that this caused, or
resulted in, the rupture of the pulmonary blood-vessel. Keats belonged
to a consumptive family; his mother died of consumption, and also his
younger brother: and the preliminaries of his mortal illness (even if we
do not date them farther back, for which some reason appears) began
towards the middle of July 1818, when, in very rough walking in the
Island of Mull, he caught a severe and persistent attack of sore throat.

1. 37. _The succeeding acknowledgments, from more candid critics, of the
true greatness of his powers._ The notice here principally referred to
is probably that which appeared in the _Edinburgh Review_ in August
1820, written by Lord Jeffrey.

1. 42. _Whether the poisoned shaft lights on a heart made callous by
many blows._ Shelley, in this expression, has no doubt himself in view.
He had had serious reason for complaining of the treatment meted out to
him by the _Quarterly Review_: see the opening (partially cited at p.
17) of his draft-letter to the Editor.

1. 44. _One of their associates is, to my knowledge, a most base and
unprincipled calumniator._ Shelley here refers to the writer of the
critique in the _Quarterly Review_ of his poem _Laon and Cythna (The
Revolt of Islam)_. At first he supposed the writer to be Southey;
afterwards, the Rev. Mr. (Dean) Milman. His indignant phrase is
therefore levelled at Milman. But Shelley was mistaken, for the article
was in fact written by Mr. (afterwards Judge) Coleridge.

1. 46. _Those who had celebrated with various degrees of complacency and
panegyric_ Paris, _and_ Woman, _and_ A Syrian Tale, _and Mrs. Lefanu,
and Mr. Barrett, and Mr. Howard Payne._ I presume that most readers of
the present day are in the same position as I was myself--that of
knowing nothing about these performances and their authors. In order to
understand Shelley's allusion, I looked up the _Quarterly Review_ from
April 1817 to April 1821, and have ascertained as follows, (1) The
_Quarterly_ of April 1817 contains a notice of _Paris in 1815, a Poem_.
The author's name is not given, nor do I know it. The poem, numbering
about a thousand lines, is in the Spenserian stanza, varied by the
heroic metre, and perhaps by some other rhythms. Numerous extracts are
given, sufficient to show that the poem is at any rate a creditable
piece of writing. Some of the critical dicta are the following:--'The
work of a powerful and poetic imagination.... The subject of the poem is
a desultory walk through Paris, in which the author observes, with very
little regularity but--with great force, on the different objects which
present themselves.... Sketching with the hand of a master.... In a
strain of poetry and pathos which we have seldom seen equalled.... An
admirable mirable poet.' (2) _Woman_ is a poem by the Mr. Barrett whom
Shelley names, termed on the title-page 'the Author of _The Heroine._'
It was noticed in the _Quarterly_ for April 1818, the very same number
which contained the sneering critique of _Endymion_. This poem is
written in the heroic metre; and the extracts given do certainly
comprise some telling and felicitous lines. Such are--

'The beautiful rebuke that looks surprise.
The gentle vengeance of averted eyes;'

also (a line which has borne, and may yet bear, frequent re-quoting)

'Last at his cross, and earliest at his grave.'

For critical utterances we have the ensuing:--'A strain of patriotism
pure, ardent, and even sublime.... Versification combining conciseness
and strength with a considerable degree of harmony.... Both talent and
genius.... Some passages of it, and those not a few, are of the first
order of the pathetic and descriptive.' (3) _A Syrian Tale._ Of this
book I have failed to find any trace in the _Quarterly Review_, or in
the Catalogue of the British Museum. (4) Mrs. Lefanu. Neither can I
trace this lady in the _Quarterly_. Mrs. Alicia Lefanu, who is stated to
have been a sister of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and also her daughter,
Miss Alicia Lefanu, published books during the lifetime of Shelley. The
former printed _The Flowers, a Fairy Tale_, 1810, and _The Sons of Erin,
a Comedy_, 1812. To the latter various works are assigned, such as
_Rosard's Chain, a Poem_. (5) Mr. John Howard Payne was author of
_Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin, an Historical Tragedy_, criticized in
the _Quarterly_ for April, 1820. I cannot understand why Shelley should
have supposed this criticism to be laudatory: it is in fact unmixed
censure. As thus:--'He appears to us to have no one quality which we
should require in a tragic poet.... We cannot find in the whole play a
single character finely conceived or rightly sustained, a single
incident well managed, a single speech--nay a single sentence--of good
poetry.' It is true that the same article which reviews Payne's _Brutus_
notices also, and with more indulgence, Sheil's _Evadne_: possibly
Shelley glanced at the article very cursorily, and fancied that any
eulogistic phrases which he found in it applied to Payne.

1. 51. _A parallel between the Rev. Mr. Milman and Lord Byron._ I have
not succeeded in finding this parallel. The _Quarterly_ _Review_ for
July 1818 contains a critique of Milman's poem, _Samor, Lord of the
Bright City_; and the number for May 1820, a critique of Milman's _Fall
of Jerusalem_. Neither of these notices draws any parallel such as
Shelley speaks of.

1. 52. _What gnat did they strain at here_. The word 'here' will be
perceived to mean 'in _Endymion_,' or 'in reference to _Endymion_'; but
it is rather far separated from its right antecedent.

1. 59. _The circumstances of the closing scene of poor Keats's life were
not made known to me until the Elegy was ready for the press_. See p.

1. 63. _The poor fellow seems to have been hooted from the stage of
life, no less by those on whom he had wasted the promise of his genius
than those on whom he had lavished his fortune and his care_. This
statement of Shelley is certainly founded upon a passage in the letter
(see p. 22) addressed by Colonel Finch to Mr. Gisborne. Colonel Finch
said that Keats had reached Italy, 'nursing a deeply rooted disgust to
life and to the world, owing to having been infamously treated by the
very persons whom his generosity had rescued from want and woe.' The
Colonel's statement seems (as I have previously intimated) to be rather
haphazard; and Shelley's recast of it goes to a further extreme.

1. 68. _'Almost risked his own life'_ &c. The substance of the words in
inverted commas is contained in Colonel Finch's letter, but Shelley does
not cite verbatim.

       *       *       *       *       *

+Stanza 1,+ 1. 1. _I weep for Adonais--he is dead._ Modelled on the
opening of Bion's Elegy for Adonis. See p. 63.

1. 3. _The frost which binds so dear a head_: sc. the frost of death.

11. 4, 5. _And thou, sad Hour,... rouse thy obscure compeers._ The
compeers are clearly the other Hours. Why they should be termed
'obscure' is not quite manifest. Perhaps Shelley means that the weal or
woe attaching to these Hours is obscure or uncertain; or perhaps that
they are comparatively obscure, undistinguished, as not being marked by
any such conspicuous event as the death of Adonais.

11. 8, 9. _His fate and fame shall be An echo and a light unto
eternity._ By 'eternity' we may here understand, not absolute eternity
as contradistinguished from time, but an indefinite space of time, the
years and the centuries. His fate and fame shall be echoed on from age
to age, and shall be a light thereto.

+Stanza 2,+ 1. 1. _Where wert thou, mighty Mother._ Aphrodite Urania.
See pp. 51, 52. Shelley constantly uses the form 'wert' instead
of 'wast.' This phrase may be modelled upon two lines near the
opening of Milton's _Lycidas_--

'Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep
Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas?'

1. 2. _The shaft which flies In darkness._ As Adonis was mortally
wounded by a boar's tusk, so (it is here represented) was Adonais slain
by an insidiously or murderously launched dart: see p. 49. The allusion
is to the truculent attack made upon Keats by the _Quarterly Review_. It
is true that 'the shaft which flies in darkness' might be understood in
merely a general sense, as the mysterious and unforeseen arrow of Death:
but I think it clear that Shelley used the phrase in a more special

1. 4. _With veiled eyes_, &c. Urania is represented as seated in her
paradise (pleasure-ground, garden-bower), with veiled eyes--
downward-lidded, as in slumber: an Echo chaunts or recites the
'melodies,' or poems, which Adonais had composed while Death was rapidly
advancing towards him: Urania is surrounded by other Echoes, who
hearken, and repeat the strain. A hostile reviewer might have been
expected to indulge in one of the most familiar of cheap jokes, and to
say that Urania had naturally fallen asleep over Keats's poems: but I am
not aware that any critic of _Adonais_ did actually say this. The
phrase, 'one with soft enamoured breath,' means 'one of the Echoes';
this is shown in stanza 22, 'all the Echoes whom _their sister's song_.'

+Stanza 3,+ 11. 6, 7. _For he is gone where all things wise and fair
Descend._ Founded on Bion (p. 64), 'Persephone,... all lovely things
drift down to thee.'

1. 7, _The amorous deep._ The depth of earth, or region of the dead;
amorous, because, having once obtained possession of Adonais, it retains
him in a close embrace, and will not restore him to the land of the
living. This passage has a certain analogy to that of Bion (p. 65), 'Not
that he is loth to hear, but that the maiden of Hades will not let him

+Stanza 4,+ 1. 1. _Most musical of mourners._ This phrase, applying to
Urania, is one of those which might seem to favour the assumption that
the deity here spoken of is the Muse Urania, and not Aphrodite Urania,
But on this point see pp. 50 to 52.

1. 1. _Weep again._ The poem seems to indicate that Urania, slumbering,
is not yet aware of the death of Adonais. Therefore she cannot as yet
have wept for his death: but she may have wept in anticipation that he
would shortly die, and thus can be now adjured to 'weep _again_.' (See
also p. 143.)

1. 2. _He died._ Milton.

1. 4. _When his country's pride,_ &c. Construe: When the priest,
the slave, and the liberticide, trampled his country's pride, and
mocked [it] with many a loathèd rite of lust and blood. This of
course refers to the condition of public affairs and of court-life in
the reign of Charles II. The inversion in this passage is not a
very serious one, although, for the sense, slightly embarrassing.
Occasionally Shelley conceded to himself great latitude in inversion:
as for instance in the _Revolt of Islam_, canto 3, st. 34,

'And the swift boat the little waves which bore
Were cut by its keen keel, though slantingly,'

which means 'And the little waves, which bore the swift boat,
were cut,' &c.; also in the _Ode to Naples_, strophe 4,

      'Florence, beneath the sun,
      Of cities fairest one,
Blushes within her bower for Freedom's expectation.'

1. 8. _His clear sprite._ To substitute the word 'sprite' for 'spirit,'
in an elevated passage referring to Milton, appears to me one of the
least tolerable instances of make-rhyme in the whole range of English
poetry. 'Sprite' is a trivial and distorted misformation of 'spirit';
and can only, I apprehend, be used with some propriety (at any rate, in
modern poetry) in a more or less bantering sense. The tricksy elf Puck
may be a sprite, or even the fantastic creation Ariel; but neither
Milton's Satan nor Milton's Ithuriel, nor surely Milton himself, could
possibly be a sprite, while the limits of language and of common sense
are observed.

1. 9. _The third among the Sons of Light._ At first sight this phrase
might seem to mean 'the third-greatest poet of the world': in which case
one might suppose Homer and Shakespear to be ranked as the first and
second. But it may be regarded as tolerably clear that Shelley is here
thinking only of _epic_ poets; and that he ranges the epic poets
according to a criterion of his own, which is thus expressed in his
_Defence of Poetry_ (written in the same year as _Adonais_, 1821):
'Homer was the first and Dante the second epic poet; that is, the second
poet the series of whose creations bore a defined and intelligible
relation to the knowledge and sentiment and religion of the age in which
he lived, and of the ages which followed it--developing itself in
correspondence with their development....Milton was the third epic
poet.' The poets whom Shelley admired most were probably Homer,
Aeschylus, Sophocles, Lucretius, Dante, Shakespear, and Milton; he took
high delight in the _Book of Job_, and presumably in some other poetical
books of the Old Testament; Calderon also he prized greatly; and in his
own time Goethe, Byron, and (on some grounds) Wordsworth and Coleridge.

+Stanza 5,+ 1. 2. _Not all to that bright station dared to climb._ The
conception embodied in the diction of this stanza is not quite so clear
as might be wished. The first statement seems to amount to this--That
some poets, true poets though they were, did not aspire so high, nor
were capable of reaching so high, as Homer, Dante, and Milton, the
typical epic poets. A statement so obviously true that it hardly
extends, in itself, beyond a truism. But it must be read as introductory
to what follows.

1. 3. _And happier they their happiness who knew._ Clearly a recast
of the phrase of Vergil,

'O fortunati nimium sua si bona nôrint

But Vergil speaks of men who did not adequately appreciate their own
happiness; Shelley (apparently) of others who did so. He seems to
intimate that the poetical temperament is a happy one, in the case of
those poets who, unconcerned with the greatest ideas and the most
arduous schemes of work, pour forth their 'native wood-notes wild.' I
think it possible however that Shelley intended, his phrase to be
accepted with the same meaning as Vergil's--'happier they, supposing
they had known their happiness.' In that case, the only reason implied
why these minor poets were the happier is that their works have endured
the longer.

11. 4, 5. _Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time In which
suns perished._ Shelley here appears to say that the minor poets have
left works which survive, while some of the works of the very greatest
poets have disappeared: as, for instance, his own lyrical models in
_Adonais_, Bion and Moschus, are still known by their writings, while
many of the master-pieces of Aeschylus and Sophocles are lost. Some
_tapers_ continue to burn; while some _suns_ have perished.

11. 5-7. _Others more sublime, Struck by the envious wrath of man or
God, Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime._ These others include
Keats (Adonais) himself, to whom the phrase, 'struck by the envious
wrath of man,' may be understood as more peculiarly appropriated. And
generally the 'others' may be regarded as nearly identical with 'the
inheritors of unfulfilled renown' who appear (some of them pointed out
by name) in stanza 45. The word God is printed in the Pisan edition with
a capital letter: it may be questioned whether Shelley meant to indicate
anything more definite than 'some higher power--Fate.'

11. 8, 9. _And some yet live, treading the thorny road Which leads,
through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode._ Byron must be supposed
to be the foremost among these; also Wordsworth and Coleridge; and
doubtless Shelley himself should not he omitted.

+Stanza 6,+ 1. 2. _The nursling of thy widowhood._ As to this expression
see p. 51. I was there speaking only of the Muse Urania; but the
observations are equally applicable to Aphrodite Urania, and I am unable
to carry the argument any further.

11. 3, 4. _Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherished, And fed
with true love tears instead of dew._ It seems sufficiently clear that
Shelley is here glancing at a leading incident in Keats's poem of
_Isabella, or the Pot of Basil_, founded upon a story in Boccaccio's
_Decameron_. Isabella unburies her murdered lover Lorenzo;
preserves his head in a pot of basil; and (as expressed in st. 52
of the poem)

'Hung over her sweet basil evermore,
And moistened it with tears unto the core.'

I give Shelley's words 'true love tears' as they appear in the
Pisan edition: 'true-love tears' might be preferable.

1. 9. _The broken lily lies--the storm is overpast._ As much as to say:
the storm came, and shattered the lily; the storm has now passed away,
but the lily will never revive.

+Stanza 7,+ 1. i. _To that high Capital where kingly Death_, &c. The
Capital is Rome (where Keats died). Death is figured as the King of
Rome, who there 'keeps his pale court in beauty and decay,'--amid the
beauties of nature and art, and amid the decay of monuments and

11. 3, 4. _And bought, with price of purest breath, A grave among the
eternal._ Keats, dying in Rome, secured sepulture among the many
illustrious persons who are there buried. This seems to be the only
meaning of 'the eternal' in the present passage: the term does not
directly imply (what is sufficiently enforced elsewhere) Keats's own
poetic immortality.

1. 4. _Come away!_ This call is addressed in fancy to any persons
present in the chamber of death. They remain indefinite both to the poet
and to the reader. The conclusion of the stanza, worded with great
beauty and delicacy, amounts substantially to saying--'Take your last
look of the dead Adonais while he may still seem to the eye to be rather
sleeping than dead.'

1. 7. _He lies as if in dewy sleep he lay._ See Bion (p. 64), 'Beautiful
in death, as one that hath fallen on sleep.' The term 'dewy sleep' means
probably 'sleep which refreshes the body as nightly dew refreshes the
fields.' This phrase is followed by the kindred expression 'liquid

+Stanza 8,+ 1. 3. _The shadow of white Death_, &c. The use of 'his' and
'her' in this stanza is not wholly free from ambiguity. In st. 7 Death
was a male impersonation--'kingly Death' who 'keeps his pale court.' It
may be assumed that he is the same in the present stanza. Corruption, on
the other hand, is a female impersonation: she (not Death) must be the
same as 'the eternal Hunger,' as to whom it is said that 'pity and awe
soothe _her_ pale rage.' Premising this, we read:--'Within the twilight
chamber spreads apace the shadow of white Death, and at the door
invisible Corruption waits to trace his [Adonais's] extreme way to her
[Corruption's] dim dwelling-place; the eternal Hunger [Corruption] sits
[at the door], but pity and awe soothe her pale rage, nor dares she,'
&c. The unwonted phrase 'his extreme way' seems to differ in meaning
little if at all from the very ordinary term 'his last journey.' The
statement in this stanza therefore is that corruption does not assail
Adonais lying on his deathbed; but will shortly follow his remains to
the grave, the dim [obscure, lightless] abode of corruption itself.

11. 8, 9. _Till darkness and the law Of change shall o'er his sleep the
mortal curtain draw._ Until the darkness of the grave and the universal
law of change and dissolution shall draw the curtain of death over his
sleep--shall prove his apparent sleep to be veritable death. The
prolonged interchange in _Adonais_ between the ideas of death and of
sleep may remind us that Shelley opened with a similar contrast or
approximation his first considerable (though in part immature) poem
_Queen Mab_--

'How wonderful is Death,--
Death, and his brother Sleep!' &c.

The mind may also revert to the noble passage in Byron's _Giaour_--

'He who hath bent him o'er the dead
Ere the first day of death is fled,' &c.--

though the idea of actual sleep is not raised in this admirably
beautiful and admirably realistic description. Perhaps the poem, of all
others, in which the conception of death is associated with that of
sleep with the most poignant pathos, is that of Edgar Poe entitled _For

'Thank Heaven, the crisis,
  The danger, is past,
And the lingering illness
  Is over at last,
And the fever called living
  Is conquered at last,' &c.--

where real death is spoken of throughout, in a series of exquisite and
thrilling images, as being real sleep. In Shelley's own edition of
_Adonais_, the lines which we are now considering are essentially
different. They run

              'Till darkness and the law
Of mortal change shall fill the grave which is her maw.'

This is comparatively poor and rude. The change to the present reading
was introduced by Mrs. Shelley in her edition of Shelley's Poems in
1839. She gives no information as to her authority: but there can be no
doubt that at some time or other Shelley himself made the improvement.
See p. 33.

+Stanza 9,+ 1. i. _The quick Dreams._ With these words begins a passage
of some length, which is closely modelled upon the passage of Bion (p.
64), 'And around him the Loves are weeping,' &c.: modelled upon it, and
also systematically transposed from it. The transposition goes on the
same lines as that of Adonis into Adonais, and of the Cyprian into the
Uranian Aphrodite; i.e. the personal or fleshly Loves are spiritualized
into Dreams (musings, reveries, conceptions) and other faculties or
emotions of the mind. It is to be observed, moreover, that the trance of
Adonis attended by Cupids forms an incident in Keats's own poem of
_Endymion_, book ii--

'For on a silken couch of rosy pride,
In midst of all, there lay a sleeping youth
Of fondest beauty; fonder, in fair sooth,
Than sighs could fathom or contentment reach.

       *       *       *       *       *

                         ... Hard by
Stood serene Cupids, watching silently.
One, kneeling to a lyre, touched the strings,
Muffling to death the pathos with his wings,
And ever and anon uprose to look
At the youth's slumber; while another took
A willow-bough distilling odorous dew,
And shoot it on his hair; another flew
In through the woven roof, and fluttering-wise
Rained violets upon his sleeping eyes.'

1. 2. _The passion-winged ministers of thought._ The 'Dreams' are here
defined as being thoughts (or ministers of thought) winged with passion;
not mere abstract cogitations, but thoughts warm with the heart's blood,
emotional conceptions--such thoughts as subserve the purposes of poetry,
and enter into its structure: in a word, poetic thoughts.

1. 3. _Who were his flocks_, &c. These Dreams were in fact the very
thoughts of Adonais, as conveyed in his poems. He being dead, they
cannot assume new forms of beauty in any future poems, and cannot be
thus diffused from mind to mind, but they remain mourning round their
deceased herdsman, or master. It is possible that this image of a flock
and a herdsman is consequent upon the phrase in the Elegy of Moschus for
Bion--'Bion the herdsman is dead' (p. 65).

+Stanza 10,+ 1. 2. _And fans him with her moonlight wings._ See Bion (p.
65), 'and another, from behind him, with his wings is fanning Adonis.'
The epithet 'moonlight' may indicate either delicacy of colour, or faint
luminosity--rather the latter,

1. 6. _A tear some Dream has loosened from his brain._ I follow
Shelley's edition in printing Dream with a capital letter. I do not
however think this helpful to the right sense. The capitalized Dream
might appear to be one of those impersonated Dreams to whom these
stanzas relate: but in the present line the word 'dream' would be more
naturally construed as meaning simply 'thought, mental conception.'

1. 7. _Lost angel of a ruined paradise._ The ruined paradise is the
mind, now torpid in death, of Adonais. The 'Dream' which has been
speaking is a lost angel of this paradise, in the sense of being a
messenger or denizen of the mind of Adonais, incapacitated for
exercising any further action: indeed, the Dream forthwith fades, and is
for ever extinct.

1. 8. _With no stain._ Leaving no trace behind. The rhyme has entailed
the use of the word 'stain,' which is otherwise a little arbitrary in
this connexion.

1. 9. _She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain._ A rain-cloud
which has fully discharged its rain would no longer constitute a
cloud--it would be dispersed and gone. The image is therefore a very
exact one for the Dream which, having accomplished its function and its
life, now ceases to be. There appears to be a further parallel
intended--between the Dream whose existence closes in a _tear_, and the
rain-cloud which has discharged its _rain_: this is of less moment, and
verges upon a conceit. This passage in _Adonais_ is not without some
analogy to one in Keats's _Endymion_ (quoted on p. 42)--

A melancholy spirit well might win
Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
Into the winds.'

Stanza 11+ 11. 1, 2. _One from a lucid urn of starry dew Washed his
light limbs, as if embalming them._ See the passage from Bion (p. 64),
'One in a golden vessel bears water, and another laves the wound.' The
expression 'starry dew' is rather peculiar: the dew may originally have
'starred' the grass, but, when collected into an urn, it must have lost
this property: perhaps we should rather understand, nocturnal dew upon
which the stars had been shining. It is difficult to see how the act of
washing the limbs could simulate the process of embalming.

1. 3. _Another clipt her profuse locks._ See Bion (p. 64), 'clipping
their locks for Adonis.' 'Profuse' is here accented on the first
syllable; although indeed the line can be read with the accent, as is
usual, on the second syllable.

11. 3-5. _And threw The wreath upon him like an anadem Which frozen
tears instead of pearls begem._ The wreath is the lock of hair--perhaps
a plait or curl, for otherwise the term wreath is rather wide of the
mark. The idea that the tears shed by this Dream herself (or perhaps
other Dreams) upon the lock are 'frozen,' and thus stand in lieu of
pearls upon an anadem or circlet, seems strained, and indeed
incongruous: one might wish it away.

11. 6, 7. _Another in her wilful grief would break Her bow and wingèd
reeds._ Follows Bion closely--'And one upon his shafts, another on his
bow, is treading' (p. 64). This is perfectly appropriate for the Loves,
or Cupids: not equally so for the Dreams, for it is not so apparent what
concern they have with bows and arrows. These may however be 'winged
thoughts' or 'winged words'--[Greek: epea pteroenta]. Mr. Andrew Lang
observes (Introduction to his Theocritus volume), 'In one or other of
the sixteen Pompeian pictures of Venus and Adonis, the Loves are
breaking their bows and arrows for grief, as in the hymn of Bion.'

11. 7, 8. _As if to stem A greater loss with one which was more weak._
'To stem a loss' is a very lax phrase--and more especially 'to stem a
loss with another loss.' 'To stem a torrent--or, the current of a
river,' is a well-known expression, indicating one sort of material
force in opposition to another. Hence we come to the figurative
expression, 'to stem the torrent of his grief,' &c. Shelley seems to
have yielded to a certain analogy in the sentiment, and also to the
convenience of a rhyme, and thus to have permitted himself a phrase
which is neither English nor consistent with sense. Line 8 seems to me
extremely feeble throughout.

1. 9. _And dull the barbèd fire against his frozen cheek._ The
construction runs--'Another would break, &c., and [would] dull, &c.' The
term 'the barbèd fire' represents of course 'the winged reeds,' or
arrows: actual reeds or arrows are now transmuted into flame-tipped
arrows (conformable to the spiritual or immaterial quality of the
Dreams): the fire is to be quenched against the frost of the death-cold
cheek of Adonais. 'Frozen tears--frozen cheek:' Shelley would scarcely,
I apprehend, have allowed this repetition, but for some inadvertence. I
am free to acknowledge that I think the whole of this stanza bad. Its
_raison d'être_ is a figurative but perfectly appropriate and
straightforward passage in Bion: Shelley has attempted to turn that into
a still more figurative passage suitable for _Adonais_, with a result
anything but happy. He fails to make it either straightforward or
appropriate, and declines into the super-subtle or wiredrawn.

+Stanza 12,+ 1. 1. _Another Splendour._ Another luminous Dream.

1. 2. _That mouth whence it was wont to draw the breath,_ &c. Adonais
(Keats), as a poet, is here figured as if he were a singer; consequently
we are referred to his 'mouth' as the vehicle of his thoughts or poetic
imaginings--not to his hand which recorded them.

1. 3. _To pierce the guarded wit._ To obtain entry into the otherwise
unready minds of others--the hearers (or readers) of the poet.

11. 5, 6. _The damp death Quenched its caress upon his icy lips._ This
phrase is not very clear. I understand it to mean--The damps of death
[upon the visage of Adonais] quenched the caress of the Splendour [or
Dream] imprinted on his icy lips. It might however be contended that the
term 'the damp death' is used as an energetic synonym for the
'Splendour' itself. In this case the sense of the whole passage may be
amplified thus: The Splendour, in imprinting its caress upon the icy
lips of Adonais, had its caress quenched by the cold, and was itself
converted into dampness and deathliness: it was no longer a luminous
Splendour, but a vaporous and clammy form of death. The assumption that
'the damp death' stands as a synonym for the 'Splendour' obtains some
confirmation from the succeeding phrase about the '_dying_ meteor'--for
this certainly seems used as a simile for the 'Splendour.'

1. 7. _'And, as a dying meteor,'_ &c. The dying meteor, in this simile,
must represent the Splendour; the wreath of moonlight vapour stands for
the pale limbs of Adonais; the cold night may in a general way symbolize
the night of death.

1. 9. _It flushed through his pale limbs, and passed to its eclipse._
The Splendour flushed through the limbs of Adonais, and so became
eclipsed,--faded into nothingness. This terminates the episode of the
'quick Dreams,' beginning with stanza 9.

+Stanza 13,+ 1. 1. _And others came,--Desires and Adorations,_ &c. This
passage is the first in which Shelley has direct recourse, no longer to
the Elegy of Bion for Adonis, but to the Elegy of Moschus for Bion. As
he had spiritualized the impersonations of Bion, so he now spiritualizes
those of Moschus. The Sicilian lyrist gives us (see p. 65) Apollo,
Satyrs, Priapi, Panes, and Fountain-fairies. Shelley gives us Desires,
Adorations, Persuasions, Destinies, Splendours, Glooms, Hopes, Fears,
Phantasies, Sorrow, Sighs, and Pleasure. All these 'lament Adonais'
(stanza 14): they are such emotional or abstract beings as 'he had
loved, and moulded into thought from shape and hue and odour and sweet
sound.' The adjectival epithets are worth noting for their poetic
felicity: wingèd Persuasions (again hinting at [Greek: epea pteroenta]),
veiled Destinies, glimmering Hopes and Fears, twilight Phantasies.

1. 6. _And Pleasure, blind with tears_, &c. The Rev. Stopford Brooke, in
an eloquent Lecture delivered to the Shelley Society in June, 1889,
dwelt at some length upon the singular mythopoeic gift of the poet.
These two lines are an instance in point, of a very condensed kind.
Pleasure, heart-struck at the death of Adonais, has abrogated her own
nature, and has become blinded with tears; her eyes can therefore serve
no longer to guide her steps. Her smile too is dying, but not yet dead;
it emits a faint gleam which, in default of eyes, serves to distinguish
the path. If one regards this as a mere image, it may be allowed to
approach close to a conceit; but it suggests a series of incidents and
figurative details which may rather count as a compendious myth.

1. 8. _Came in slow pomp:--the moving pomp might seem._ The repetition
of the word 'pomp' gives a certain poverty to the sound of this line; it
can hardly, I think, have been deliberately intended. In other respects
this stanza is one of the most melodious in the poem.

+Stanza 14+, 11. 3, 4. _Morning sought Her eastern watch-tower, and her
hair unbound_, &c. Whether Shelley wished the reader to attribute any
distinct naturalistic meaning to the 'hair' of Morning is a question
which may admit of some doubt. If he did so, the 'hair unbound' is
probably to be regarded as streaks of rain-cloud; these cloudlets ought
to fertilize the soil with their moisture; but, instead of that, they
merely dim the eyes of Morning, and dull the beginnings of day. In this
instance, and in many other instances ensuing, Shelley represents
natural powers or natural objects--morning, echo, flowers, &c.--as
suffering some interruption or decay of essence or function, in sympathy
with the stroke which has cut short the life of Adonais. It need hardly
be said that, in doing this, he only follows a host of predecessors. He
follows, for example, his special models Bion and Moschus. They probably
followed earlier models; but I have failed in attempting to trace how
far back beyond them this scheme of symbolism may have extended;
something of it can be found in Theocritus. The legend--doubtless a very
ancient one--that the sisters of Phaeton wept amber for his fall belongs
to the same order of ideas (as a learned friend suggests to me).

1. 8. _Pale Ocean_. As not only the real Keats, but also the figurative
Adonais, died in Rome, the ocean cannot be a feature in the immediate
scene; it lies in the not very remote distance, felt rather than visible
to sight. Of course too, Ocean (as well as Thunder and Winds) is
personated in this passage; he is a cosmic deity, lying pale in unquiet

+Stanza 15+, 1. 1. _Lost Echo sits_, &c. Echo is introduced into both
the Grecian elegies, that of Moschus as well as that of Bion. Bion (p.
64) simply says that 'Echo resounds, "Adonis dead!"' But Moschus (p.
65), whom Shelley substantially follows, sets forth that 'Echo in the
rocks laments that thou [Bion] art silent, and no more she mimics thy
voice'; also, 'Echo, among the reeds, doth still feed upon thy songs.'
It will be observed that in this stanza Echo is a single personage--the
Nymph known to mythological fable: but in stanza 2 we had various
'Echoes,' spirits of minor account, who, in the paradise of Urania, were
occupied with the poems of Adonais.

11. 6-8. _His lips, more dear Than those for whose disdain she pined
away Into a shadow of all sounds._ Echo is, in mythology, a Nymph who
was in love with Narcissus. He, being enamoured of his own beautiful
countenance, paid no heed to Echo, who consequently 'pined away into a
shadow of all sounds.' In this expression one may discern a delicate
double meaning. (1) Echo pined away into (as the accustomed phrase goes)
'a mere shadow of her former self.' (2) Just as a solid body, lighted by
the sun, casts, as a necessary concomitant, a shadow of itself, so a
sound, emitted under the requisite conditions, casts an echo of itself;
echo is, in relation to sound, the same sort of thing as shadow in
relation to substance.

11. 8, 9. _A drear Murmur, between their songs, is all the woodmen
hear._ Echo will not now repeat the songs of the woodmen; she merely
murmurs some snatches of the 'remembered lay' of Adonais.

+Stanza 16+, 1. 1. _Grief made the young Spring wild._ This introduction
of Spring may be taken as implying that Shelley supposed Keats to have
died in the Spring: but in fact he died in the Winter--23 February. As
to this point see pp. 30 and 96.

11. 1-3. _And she threw down Her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were,
Or they dead leaves._ This corresponds to a certain extent with the
phrases in Bion, 'the flowers are withered up with grief,' and 'yea all
the flowers are faded' (p. 64); and in Moschus, 'and in sorrow for thy
fall the trees cast down their fruit, and all the flowers have faded'
(p. 65). It may be worth observing that Shelley says--'As if she Autumn
were, _or_ they dead leaves' (not '_and_ they dead leaves'). He
therefore seems to present the act of Spring from two separate points of
view: (1) She threw down the buds, as if she had been Autumn, whose
office it is to throw down, and not to cherish and develope; (2) she
threw down the buds as if they had been, not buds of the nascent year,
but such dead leaves of the olden year as still linger on the spray when
Spring arrives,

1. 4. _For whom should she have waked the sullen Year?_ The year,
beginning on 1 January, may in a certain sense be conceived as sleeping
until roused by the call of Spring. But more probably Shelley here
treats the year as beginning on 25 March--which date would witness its
awakening, and practically its first existence.

11. 5-7. _To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear, Nor to himself Narcissus,
as to both Thou, Adonais; wan they stand and sere_, &c. This passage
assimilates two sections in the Elegy of Moschus, p. 65: 'Now, thou
hyacinth, whisper the letters on thee graven, and add a deeper ai ai to
thy petals: he is dead, the beautiful singer.... Nor so much did
pleasant Lesbos mourn for Alcaeus,' &c. The passage of Shelley is rather
complicated in its significance, because it mixes up the personages
Hyacinthus and Narcissus with the flowers hyacinth and narcissus. The
beautiful youth Hyacinthus was dear to Phoebus; on his untimely death
(he was slain by a quoit which Phoebus threw, and which the jealous
Zephyrus blew aside so that it struck Hyacinthus on the head), the god
changed his blood into the flower hyacinth, which bears markings
interpreted by the Grecian fancy into the lettering [Greek: ai ai]
(alas, alas!). The beautiful youth Narcissus, contemplating himself in a
streamlet, became enamoured of his own face; and pining away, was
converted into the flower narcissus. This accounts for the lines, 'To
Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear, nor to himself Narcissus.' But, when
we come to the sequence, 'as to both thou, Adonais.' we have to do, no
longer with the youths Hyacinthus and Narcissus, but with the flowers
hyacinth and narcissus: it is the flowers which (according to Shelley)
loved Adonais better than the youths were loved, the one by Phoebus and
the other by himself. These flowers--being some of the kindling buds
which Spring had thrown down--stand 'wan and sere.' (This last point is
rather the reverse of a phrase in Bion's Elegy, p. 64, 'The flowers
flush red for anguish.') It may perhaps be held that the transition from
the youths to the flowers, and from the emotions of Phoebus and of
Narcissus to those assigned to the flowers, is not very happily managed
by Shelley: it is artificial, and not free from confusion. As to the
hyacinth, the reader will readily perceive that a flower which bears
markings read off into [Greek: ai ai] (or [Greek: AI AI] seems more
correct) cannot be the same which we now call hyacinth. Ovid says that
in form the hyacinth resembles a lily, and that its colour is
'purpureus,' or deep red. John Martyn, who published in 1755 _The
Georgicks of Virgil with an English Translation_, has an elaborate note
on the subject. He concludes thus: 'I am pretty well satisfied that the
flower celebrated by the poets is what we now are acquainted with under
the name 'Lilium floribus reflexis,' or Martagon, and perhaps may be
that very species which we call Imperial Martagon. The flowers of most
sorts of martagons have many spots of a deeper colour: and sometimes I
have seen these spots run together in such a manner as to form the
letters AI in several places.' Shelley refers to the hyacinth in another
passage (_Prometheus Unbound_, act 2, sc. 1) which seems to indicate
that he regarded the antique hyacinth as being the same as the modern

                   'As the _blue bells_
Of hyacinth tell Apollo's written grief.'

1. 8. _Amid the faint companions of their youth._ In Shelley's edition
the words are 'Amid the drooping comrades,' &c. The change was made
under the same circumstances as noted on p. 105. Whether it is a change
for the better may admit of some question. The faint companions of the
youth of the hyacinth and the narcissus must be other flowers, such as
Spring had thrown down.

1. 9. _With dew all turned to tears,--odour, to sighing ruth._ The dew
upon the hyacinth and narcissus is converted into tears: they exhale
sighs, instead of fragrance. All this is in rather a _falsetto_ tone. It
has some resemblance to the more simple and touching phrase in the Elegy
by Moschus (p. 65): 'Ye flowers, now in sad clusters breathe yourselves

+Stanza 17+, 1. 1. _Thy spirits sister, the lorn nightingale, Mourns not
her mate_, &c. The reason for calling the nightingale the sister of the
spirit of Keats (Adonais) does not perhaps go beyond this--that, as
the nightingale is a supreme songster among birds, so was Keats a
supreme songster among men. It is possible however--and one
willingly supposes so--that Shelley singled out the nightingale for
mention, in recognition of the consummate beauty of Keats's _Ode to
the Nightingale_, published in the same volume with _Hyperion_. The
epithet 'lorn' may also be noted in the same connexion; as Keats's
Ode terminates with a celebrated passage in which 'forlorn' is the
leading word (but not as an epithet for the nightingale itself)--

'Forlorn!--the very word is as a knell,' &c.

The nightingale is also introduced into the Elegy of Moschus for
Bion; 'Ye nightingales that lament,' &c. (p. 65), and 'Nor
ever sang so sweet the nightingale on the cliffs.' Poets are
fond of speaking of the nightingale as being the hen-bird, and
Shelley follows this precedent. It is a fallacy, for the songster
is always the cock-bird.

1. 3. _Not so the eagle_, &c. The general statement in these lines is
that Albion wails for the death of Keats more melodiously than the
nightingale mourning for her lost mate, and more passionately than the
eagle robbed of her young. This statement has proved true enough in the
long run: when Shelley wrote, it was only prospectively or potentially
true, for the death of Keats excited no immediate widespread concern in
England. It should be observed that, by introducing Albion as a
figurative personage in his Elegy, Shelley disregards his emblematic
Grecian youth Adonais, and goes straight to the actual Englishman Keats.
This passage, taken as a whole, is related to that of Moschus (p. 65)
regarding the nightingale, the sea-bird, and the bird of Memnon; see
also the passage, 'and not for Sappho, but still for thee,' &c.

11. 4, 5. _Could nourish in the sun's domain Her mighty youth with
morning._ This phrase seems to have some analogy to that of Milton in
his _Areopagitica_: 'Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant
nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep and shaking her
invincible locks. Methinks I see her as an eagle muing her mighty youth,
and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam--purging and
unsealing her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly

11. 7, 8. _The curse of Cain Light on his head_, &c. An imprecation
against the critic of Keats's _Endymion_ in the _Quarterly Review_: see
especially p. 39, &c. The curse of Cain was that he should be 'a
fugitive and a vagabond,' as well as unsuccessful in tilling the soil.
Shelley probably pays no attention to these details, but simply means
'the curse of murder.'

+Stanza 18,+ 11. 1, 2. _Ah woe is me! Winter is come and gone, But grief
returns with the revolving year_, &c. See the passage in Moschus (p.
65): 'Ah me! when the mallows wither,' &c. The phrase in Bion has also a
certain but restricted analogy to this stanza: 'Thou must again bewail
him, again must weep for him another year' (p. 65). As to the phrase
'Winter is come and gone,' see the note (p. 111) on 'Grief made the
young Spring wild.'

1. 5. _Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Seasons' bier._ This
phrase is barely consistent with the statement (st. 16) as to Spring
throwing down her kindling buds. Perhaps, moreover, it was an error of
print to give 'Seasons' in the plural: 'Season's' (meaning winter) would
seem more accurate. A somewhat similar idea is conveyed in one of
Shelley's lyrics, _Autumn, a Dirge_, written in 1820:--

               'And the Year
On the earth her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
                Is lying.'

1. 7. _Brere._ An antiquated form of the word briar.

1. 9. _Like unimprisoned flames._ Flames which, after being pent up
within some substance or space, finally find a vent.

+Stanza 19,+ 1. 2. _A quickening life_, &c. The present stanza is
generally descriptive of the effects of Springtime upon the earth. This
reawakening of Nature (Shelley says) has always taken place, in annual
recurrence, since 'the great morning of the world when first God dawned
on chaos.' This last expression must be construed with a certain
latitude. The change from an imagined chaos into a divinely-ordered
cosmos is not necessarily coincident with the interchange of seasons,
and especially the transition from Winter to Spring, upon the planet
Earth. All that can be safely propounded on such a subject is that the
sequence of seasons is a constant and infallible phenomenon of Nature in
that condition of our planet with which alone we have, or can have, any

1. 5. _In its steam immersed_: i.e. in the steam--or vapour or
exhalation--of the 'quickening life.'

+Stanza 20,+ 11. 1, 2. _The leprous corpse, touched by this spirit
tender, Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath._ 'This spirit
tender' is the 'quickening life' of the renascent year; or briefly the
Spring. By 'the leprous corpse' Shelley may mean, not the corpse of an
actual leper, but any corpse in a loathsome state of decay. Even so
abhorrent an object avails to fertilize the soil, and thus promotes the
growth of odorous flowers.

1. 3. _Like incarnations of the stars_, &c. These flowers--star-like
blossoms--illumine death and the grave: the light which would belong to
them as stars is converted into the fragrance proper to them as flowers.
This image is rather confused, and I think rather stilted: moreover,
'incarnation' (or embodiment in _flesh_) is hardly the right word for
the vegetative nature of flowers. As forms of life, the flowers mock or
deride the grave-worm which battens or makes merry on corruption. The
appropriateness of the term 'merry worm' seems very disputable.

1. 6. _Nought we know dies._ This affirmation springs directly out
of the consideration just presented to us--that even the leprous
corpse does not, through various stages of decay, pass into absolute
nothingness: on the contrary, its constituents take new forms,
and subserve a re-growth of life, as in the flowers which bedeck
the grave. From this single and impressive instance the poet
passes to the general and unfailing law--No material object of
which we have cognizance really dies: all such objects are in a
perpetual cycle of change. This conception has been finely
developed in a brace of early poems of Lord Tennyson, _All Things
will Die_, and _Nothing will Die_:--

'The stream will cease to flow,
The wind will cease to blow,
The clouds will cease to fleet,
The heart will cease to beat--
  For all things must die.

       *       *       *       *       *

    'The stream flows,
    The wind blows,
    The cloud fleets,
    The heart beats,
    Nothing will die.
    Nothing will die;
    All things will change
    Through eternity.'

11. 6-8. _Shall that alone which knows Be as a sword consumed before the
sheath By sightless lightning?_ From the axiom 'Nought we know dies'--an
axiom which should be understood as limited to what we call material
objects (which Shelley however considered to be indistinguishable, in
essence, from ideas, see p, 56)--he proceeds to the question, 'Shall
that alone which knows'--i.e. shall the mind alone--die and be
annihilated? If the mind were to die, while the body continues extant
(not indeed in the form of a human body, but in various phases of
ulterior development), then the mind would resemble a sword which, by
the action of lightning, is consumed (molten, dissolved) within its
sheath, while the sheath itself remains unconsumed. This is put as a
question, and Shelley does not supply an answer to it here, though the
terms in which his enquiry is couched seem intended to suggest a reply
to the effect that the mind shall _not_ die. The meaning of the epithet
'sightless,' as applied to lightning, seems disputable. Of course the
primary sense of this word is 'not-seeing, blind'; but Shelley would
probably not have scrupled to use it in the sense of 'unseen.' I incline
to suppose that Shelley means 'unseen'; not so much that the lightning
is itself unseen as that its action in fusing the sword, which remains
concealed within the sheath, is unseen. But the more obvious sense of
'blind, unregardful,' could also be justified.

11. 8, 9. _Th' intense atom glows A moment, then is quenched in a most
cold repose._ The term 'th' intense atom' is a synonym for 'that which
knows,' or the mind. By death it is 'quenched in a most cold repose':
but the repose is not necessarily extinction.

+Stanza 21,+ 11. 1, 2. _Alas that all we loved of him should be, But for
our grief, as if it had not been._ 'All we loved of him' must be the
mind and character--the mental and personal endowments--of Adonais: his
bodily frame is little or not at all in question here. By these lines
therefore Shelley seems to intimate that the mind or soul of Adonais is
indeed now and for ever extinct: it lives no longer save in the grief of
the survivors. But it does not follow that this is a final expression of
Shelley's conviction on the subject: the passage should be read as in
context with the whole poem.

11. 5, 6. _Great and mean Meet massed in death, who lends what life must
borrow._ The meaning of the last words is far from clear to me. I think
Shelley may intend to say that, in this our mortal state, death is the
solid and permanent fact; it is rather a world of death than of life.
The phenomena of life are but like a transitory loan from the great
emporium, death. Shelley no doubt wanted a rhyme for 'morrow' and
'sorrow': he has made use of 'borrow' in a compact but not perspicuous

+Stanza 22,+ 1. 2. _'Wake thou,' cried Misery, 'childless mother!'_
We here return to Urania, of whom we had last heard in st. 6. See
the passage translated by Shelley from Bion (p. 63), 'Sleep no
more, Venus:... 'tis Misery calls,' &c.; but here the phrase,
''Tis Misery calls,' is Shelley's own. He more than once introduces
Misery (in the sense of Unhappiness, Tribulation) as an
emblematic personage. There is his lyric named _Misery_, written
in 1818, which begins--

'Come, be happy,--sit by me,
Shadow-vested Misery:
Coy, unwilling, silent bride,
Mourning in thy robe of pride,
Desolation deified.'

There is also the briefer lyric named _Death_, 1817, which begins--

'They die--the dead return not. Misery
Sits near an open grave, and calls them over,
A youth with hoary hair and haggard eye.'

11. 3, 4. _'Slake in thy hearts core A wound--more fierce than his, with
tears and sighs.'_ Construe: Slake with tears and sighs a wound in thy
heart's core--a wound more fierce than his.' See (p. 101) the remarks,
apposite to st. 4, upon the use of inversion by Shelley.

1. 5. _All the Dreams that watched Urania's eyes._ We had not hitherto
heard of 'Dreams' in connexion with Urania, but only in connexion with
Adonais himself. These 'Dreams that watched Urania's eyes' appear to be
dreams in the more obvious sense of that word-visions which had haunted
the slumbers of Urania.

1. 8. _Swift as a thought by the snake memory stung._ The context
suggests that the 'thought' here in question is a grievous thought, and
the term 'the snake memory' conveys therefore a corresponding impression
of pain. Shelley however had not the usual feeling of repulsion or
abhorrence for snakes and serpents. Various passages could be cited to
prove this; more especially Canto 1 of _The Revolt of Islam,_ where the
Spirit of Good is figured under the form of a serpent.

1. 9. _Front her ambrosial rest the fading Splendour sprung._ Urania.
She is in her own nature a splendour, or celestial deity: at the present
moment her brightness is 'fading,' as being overcast by sorrow and
dismay. 'Her ambrosial rest' does not appear to signify anything more
precise than 'her rest, proper to an immortal being.' The forms 'sprung,
sung,' &c. are constantly used by Shelley instead of 'sprang, sang,' &c.

+Stanza 23,+ 1. 5. _Had left the Earth a corpse._ Shelley, in this
quasi-Greek poem, takes no count of the fact that the sun, when it
ceases to illumine one part of the earth, is shining upon another part.
He treats the unillumined part as if it were the whole earth--which has
hereby become 'a corpse.'

+Stanza 24,+ 1. 2, _Through camps and cities_, &c. In highly figurative
language, this stanza pictures the passage of Urania from 'her secret
paradise' to the death-chamber of Adonais in Rome, as if the spiritual
essence and external form of the goddess were wounded by the uncongenial
atmosphere of human malice and detraction through which she has to pass.
The whole description is spiritualized from that of Bion (p. 63):--

'Wildered, ungirt, unsandalled--the thorns pierce
Her hastening feet, and drink her sacred blood.'

11. 4,5. _The invisible Palms of her tender feet._ Shelley more than
once uses 'palms' for 'soles' of the feet. See _Prometheus Unbound_, Act

'Our feet now, every palm,
Are sandalled with calm';

and _The Triumph of Life_:--

        'As she moved under the mass
Of the deep cavern, and, with palms so tender
Their tread broke not the mirror of the billow,
Glided along the river.'

Perhaps Shelley got this usage from the Italian: in that language the
web-feet of aquatic birds are termed 'palme.'

11. 8, 9. _Whose sacred blood, like the young tears of May, Paved with
eternal flowers that undeserving way._ The tears of May are rain-drops;
young, because the year is not far advanced. 'That undeserving way'
seems a very poor expression. See (p. 64) the passage from Bion: 'A tear
the Paphian sheds for each blood-drop of Adonis, and tears and blood on
the earth are turned to flowers.'

+Stanza 25,+ 1. 3. _Death ... blushed to annihilation._ This very daring
hyperbole will hardly bear--nor does it want--manipulation into prose.
Briefly, the nature of Death is to be pallid: therefore Death, in
blushing, abnegates his very nature, and almost ceases to be Death.

11. 3, 4. _The breath Revisited those lips_, &c. As Death tended towards
'annihilation,' so Adonais tended towards revival.

1. 7. _'Silent lightning.'_ This means, I suppose, lightning
unaccompanied by thunder--summer lightning.

+Stanza 26,+ 1. 1. _'Stay yet awhile.'_ See Bion (p. 64): 'Stay, Adonis!
stay, dearest one!'

1. 2, _'Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live.'_ See as above:--

'That I may kiss thee now for the last time--
But for as long as one short kiss may live!'

1. 3. _'My heartless breast.'_ Urania's breast will henceforth be
heartless, in the sense that, having bestowed her whole heart upon
Adonais, she will have none to bestow upon any one else: so I understand
the epithet.

1. 4. _'That word, that kiss, shall all thoughts else survive,'_ &c. See
Bion (p. 64): 'This kiss will I treasure,' &c.

11. 7-9. _'I would give All that I am, to be as thou now art:--But I am
chained to Time, and cannot thence depart.'_ Founded on Bion (p. 64):
'While wretched I yet live, being a goddess, and may not follow thee.'
The alteration of phrase is somewhat remarkable. In Bion's Elegy the
Cyprian Aphrodite is 'a goddess,' and therefore immortal. In Shelley's
Elegy the Uranian Aphrodite does not speak of herself under any
designation of immortality or eternity, but as 'chained to _Time_,' and
incapable of departing from Time. As long as Time lives and operates,
Urania must do the same. The dead have escaped from the dominion of
Time: this Urania, cannot do. There is a somewhat similar train of
thought in _Prometheus Unbound_,--where Prometheus the Titan, after
enduring the torture of the Furies (Act 1), says--

                 'Peace is in the grave:
The grave holds all things beautiful and good,
I am a God, and cannot find it _there_.'

+Stanza 27,+ 11. 1-4. _'O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert, Why
didst thou leave,'_ &c. This is founded on--and as usual spiritualized
from--the passage in Bion (p. 64); 'For why, ah overbold! didst thou
follow the chase, and, being so fair, why wert thou thus over-hardy to
fight with beasts?'

1. 4. _'Dare the unpastured dragon in his den.'_ This phrase must no
doubt be interpreted, not only in relation to the figurative Adonais.
but also to the actual Keats, Keats had dared the unpastured dragon in
his den, in the sense that he made a bold adventure into the poetical
field, under conditions certain to excite the ire of adherents of the
old school, whether in literature or in politics.

1. 6. _'Wisdom the mirrored shield, or scorn the spear.'_ Urania
arraigns Keats for having made his inroad upon the dragon, unguarded by
wisdom or by scorn. His want of wisdom was shown (we may assume) by the
grave blemishes and defects in his _Endymion_, the wilful faults and
perverse excesses and extravagances which mark its composition, and
wantonly invited attack. His want of scorn was (according to Shelley's
view of the facts), clear enough: he had not been equal to despising a
spiteful attack, but had fretted himself to death under it. In terming
these two defensive weapons, wisdom and scorn, a mirrored shield and a
spear, Shelley was, I apprehend, thinking of the Orlando Furioso of
Ariosto. In that poem we read of a magic shield which casts a
supernatural and intolerable splendour, whereby every gazer is cast into
a trance; and of a spear whose lightest touch overthrows every opponent.
A sea-monster--not a dragon, so far as I recollect--becomes one of the
victims of the 'mirrored shield.'

11. 7, 8. _'The full cycle when Thy spirit should have filled its
crescent sphere.'_ The spirit of Keats is here assimilated to the moon,
which grows from a crescent into a spherical form.

1. 9. _'The monsters of life's waste.'_ The noxious creatures which
infest the wilderness of human life.

+Stanza 28,+ 1. 1. _'The herded wolves,'_ &c. These same 'monsters' are
now pictured under three aspects. They are herded wolves, which will
venture to pursue a traveller, but will not face him if he turns upon
them boldly; and obscene ravens, which make an uproar over dead bodies,
or dead reputations; and vultures, which follow in the wake of a
conqueror, and gorge upon that which is already overthrown. In the
succeeding stanza, 29, two other epithetal similes are bestowed upon the
monsters--they become 'reptiles' and 'ephemeral insects.' All these
repulsive images are of course here applied to critics of wilfully
obtuse or malignant mind, such as Shelley accounted the _Quarterly_
reviewer of Keats to be.

1. 5, &c. _'How they fled When, like Apollo,'_ &c. The allusion is to
perfectly well-known incidents in the opening poetic career of Lord
Byron. His lordship, in earliest youth, published a very insignificant
volume of verse named _Hours of Idleness_. The _Edinburgh
Review_--rightly in substance, but with some superfluous harshness of
tone--pronounced this volume to be poor stuff. Byron retaliated by
producing his satire entitled _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_. With
this book he scored a success. His next publication was the generally
and enthusiastically admired commencement of _Childe Harold_, 1812;
after which date the critics justly acclaimed him as a poet--although in
course of time they grew lavishly severe upon him from the point of view
of morals and religion. I reproduce from the Pisan edition the
punctuation--'When like Apollo, from his golden bow'; but I think the
exact sense would be better brought out if we read--'When, like Apollo
from his golden bow, The Pythian,' &c.

11. 7, 8. _'The Pythian of the age one arrow sped, And smiled.'_
Byron is here assimilated to Apollo Pythius--Apollo the
The statue named Apollo Belvedere is regarded as representing
the god at the moment after he has discharged his arrow
at the python (serpent), his countenance irradiated with a half-smile
of divine scorn and triumph. The terms employed by Shelley
seem to glance more particularly at that celebrated statue: this
was the more appropriate as Byron had devoted to the same
figure two famous stanzas in the 4th canto of _Childe Harold_--

'Or view the Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life and poesy and light,' &c.

1. 9. _'They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low.'_ In the
Pisan edition we read 'that spurn them as they go.' No doubt the change
(introduced as in other instances named on pp. 105 and 113) must be
Shelley's own. The picture presented to the mind is more consistent,
according to the altered reading. The critics, as we are told in this
stanza, had at first 'fled' from Byron's arrow; afterwards they 'fawned
on his proud feet.' In order to do this, they must have paused in their
flight, and returned; and, in the act of fawning on Byron's feet, they
must have crouched down, or were 'lying low.' (Mr. Forman, in his
edition of Shelley, pointed this out.) With the words 'as they go' the
image was not self-consistent: for the critics could not be 'going,' or
walking away, at the same time when they were fawning on the poet's
feet. This last remark assumes that the words 'as they go' mean 'as the
critics go ': but perhaps (and indeed I think this is more than
probable) the real meaning was 'as the feet of Byron go'--as Byron
proceeds disdainfully on his way. If this was Shelley's original
meaning, he probably observed after a while that the words 'as _they_
go' seem to follow on with '_they_ fawn,' and not with 'the proud feet';
and, in order to remove the ambiguity, he substituted the expression
'lying low.'

+Stanza 29,+ 11. 1-3. _'The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn; He
sets, and each ephemeral insect then Is gathered into death.'_ The
spawning of a reptile (say a lizard or toad), and the death of an insect
(say a beetle or gnat), are two things totally unconnected. Shelley
however seems to link them together, as if this spawning were the origin
of the life, the brief life, of the insect. He appears therefore to use
'reptile,' not in the defined sense which we commonly attach to the
word, but in the general sense of 'a creeping creature,' such for
instance as a grub or caterpillar, the first form of an insect, leading
on to its final metamorphosis or development. Even so his natural
history is curiously at fault: for no grub or caterpillar can
spawn--which is the function of the fully-developed insect itself,
whether 'ephemeral' or otherwise. Can Shelley have been ignorant of

1. 4. _'And the immortal stars awake again.'_ The imagery of this stanza
(apart from the 'reptiles' and 'ephemeral insects') deserves a little
consideration. The sun (says Shelley) arises, and then sets: when it
sets, the immortal stars awake again. Similarly, a godlike mind (say the
mind of Keats) appears, and its light illumines the earth, and veils the
heaven: when it disappears, 'the spirit's awful night' is left to 'its
kindred lamps.' This seems as much as to say that the splendour of a new
poetic genius appears to contemporaries to throw preceding poets into
obscurity; but this is only a matter of the moment, for, when the new
genius sinks in death, the others shine forth again as stars of the
intellectual zenith, to which the new genius is kindred indeed, but not
superior. With these words concludes the speech of Urania, which began
in stanza 25.

+Stanza 30,+ 1. 1. _The Mountain Shepherds_. These are contemporary
British poets, whom Shelley represents as mourning the death of Keats.
Shepherds are such familiar figures in poetry--utilized for instance in
Milton's _Lycidas_, as well as by many poets of antiquity--that the
introduction of them into Shelley's Elegy is no matter for surprise. Why
they should be '_mountain_ shepherds' is not so clear. Perhaps Shelley
meant to indicate a certain analogy between the exalted level at which
the shepherds dwelt and the exalted level at which the poets wrote. As
the shepherds do not belong to the low-country, so neither do the poets
belong to the flats of verse. Shelley may have written with a certain
degree of reference to that couplet in _Lycidas_--

'For we were nursed upon the self-same _hill_,
Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill.'

1. 2. _Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent._ The garlands or
chaplets of the mountain shepherds have become sere because (it may be
presumed) the wearers, in their grief for the mortal illness and death
of Adonais, have for some little while left them unrenewed. Or possibly
the garlands withered at the moment when Spring 'threw down her kindling
buds' (stanza 16), I do not well understand the expression 'magic
mantles.' There seems to be no reason why the mantles of the shepherds,
considered as shepherds, should be magic. Even when we contemplate the
shepherds as poets, we may fail to discern why any magical property
should be assigned to their mantles. By the use of the epithet 'magic'
Shelley must have intended to bridge over the gap between the nominal
shepherds and the real poets, viewed as inspired singers: for this
purpose he has adopted a bold verbal expedient, but not I think an
efficient one. It may be noticed that the 'uncouth swain' who is
represented in _Lycidas_ as singing the dirge (in other words, Milton
himself) is spoken of as having a mantle--it is a 'mantle blue' (see the
penultimate line of that poem).

1. 3. _The Pilgrim of Eternity._ This is Lord Byron. As inventor of the
personage Childe Harold, the hero and so-called 'Pilgrim' of the poem
_Childe Harold's Pilgrimage_, and as being himself to a great extent
identical with his hero, Byron was frequently termed 'the Pilgrim.'
Shelley adopts this designation, which he magnifies into 'the Pilgrim of
Eternity,' He admired Byron most enthusiastically as a poet, and was
generally on easy--sometimes on cordial--terms with him as a man. He has
left us a fine and discriminating portrait of Byron in the 'Count
Maddalo' of his poem _Julian and Maddalo_, written in 1818. At times
however Shelley felt and expressed great indignation against Byron,
especially in reference to the ungenerous and cruel conduct of the
latter towards Miss Clairmont. See some brief reference to this matter
at p. 9.

11. 3-5. _Whose fame Over his living head like heaven is bent, An early
but enduring monument._ These phrases are not very definite. When fame
is spoken of as being bent over Byron's head, we must conceive of fame
as taking a form cognizable by the senses. I think Shelley means to
assimilate it to the rainbow; saying substantially--Fame is like an arc
bent over Byron's head, as the arc of the rainbow is bent over the
expanse of heaven. The ensuing term 'monument' applies rather to fame in
the abstract than to any image of fame as an arc.

11. 6, 7. _Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song In sorrow._ No
doubt it would have been satisfactory to Shelley if he could have
found that Byron entertained or expressed any serious concern
at Keats's premature death, and at the hard measure which had
been meted out to him by critics. Byron did in fact admire
_Hyperion_; writing (in November 1821, not long after the publication
of _Adonais_)--'His fragment of _Hyperion_ seems actually inspired
by the Titans, and is as sublime as Aeschylus'; and other
utterances of his show that--being with difficulty persuaded to
suppose that Keats's health and life had succumbed to the attack
in the _Quarterly_--he fittingly censured the want of feeling or
want of reflection on the critic's part which had produced so
deplorable a result. But on the whole Byron's feeling towards
Keats was one of savage contempt during the young poet's life,
and of bantering levity after his death. Here are some specimens.
(From a letter to Mr. Murray, 12 October, 1820). 'There is such
a trash of Keats and the like upon my tables that I am ashamed
to look at them.... No more Keats, I entreat. Flay him alive:
if some of you don't, I must skin him myself. There is no bearing
the drivelling idiotism of the manikin.'

          '"Who killed John Keats?"
          "I," says the Quarterly,
          So savage and Tartarly;
          "'Twas one of my feats."'

'John Keats, who was killed off by one critique
  Just as he really promised something great
If not intelligible, without Greek
  Contrived to talk about the gods of late,
Much as they might have been supposed to speak.
  Poor fellow, his was an untoward fate!
'Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
Should let itself be snuffed out by an article.'

11. 7-9. _From her wilds Ierne sent The sweetest lyrist of her saddest
wrong, And love taught grief to fall like music from his tongue._ Ierne
(Ireland) sent Thomas Moore, the lyrist of her wrongs--an allusion to
the _Irish Melodies_, and some other poems. There is not, I believe, any
evidence to show that Moore took the slightest interest in Keats, his
doings or his fate: Shelley is responsible for Moore's love, grief, and
music, in this connexion. A letter from Keats has been published showing
that at one time he expected to meet Moore personally (see p. 45).
Whether he did so or not I cannot say for certain, but I apprehend not:
the published Diary of Moore, of about the same date, suggests the

+Stanza 31,+ 1. 1. _'Midst others of less note._ Shelley clearly means
'less note' than Byron and Moore--not less note than the 'one frail

1. 2. _Came one frail form,_ &c. This personage represents Shelley
himself. Shelley here describes himself under a profusion of
characteristics, briefly defined: it may be interesting to summarize
them, apart from the other details with which they are interspersed. He
is a frail form; a phantom among men; companionless; one who had gazed
Actaeon-like on Nature's naked loveliness, and who now fled with feeble
steps, hounded by his own thoughts; a pard-like spirit beautiful and
swift; a love masked in desolation; a power begirt with weakness,
scarcely capable of lifting the weight of the hour; a breaking billow,
which may even now be broken; the last of the company, neglected and
apart--a herd-abandoned deer struck by the hunter's dart; in Keats's
fate, he wept his own; his brow was branded and ensanguined. Most of
these attributes can be summed up under one heading--that of extreme
sensitiveness and susceptibility, which meet with no response or
sustainment, but rather with misjudgment, repulse, and outrage. Some
readers may think that Shelley insists upon this aspect of his character
to a degree rather excessive, and dangerously near the confines of
feminine sensibility, rather than virile fortitude. Apart from this
predominant type of character, Shelley describes his spirit as
'beautiful and swift'--which surely it was: and he says that, having
gazed upon Nature's naked loveliness, he had suffered the fate of a
second Actseon, fleeing 'o'er the world's wilderness,' and pursued by
his own thoughts like raging hounds. By this expression Shelley
apparently means that he had over-boldly tried to fathom the depths of
things and of mind, but, baffled and dismayed in the effort, suffered,
as a man living among men, by the very tension and vividness of his
thoughts, and their daring in expression. See what he says of himself,
in prose, on p. 92.

11. 4, 5. _He, as I guess, Had gazed,_ &c. The use of the verb 'guess'
in the sense of 'to surmise, conjecture, infer,' is now mostly counted
as an Americanism. This is not correct; for the verb has often been thus
used by standard English authors. Such a practice was not however common
in Shelley's time, and he may have been guided chiefly by the rhyming.

+Stanza 32,+ 1. 4. _The weight of the superincumbent hour._ This line is
scarcely rhythmical: to bring it within the ordinary scheme of ryhthm,
one would have to lay an exaggerated stress on two of its feet--'thé
supérincumbent.' Neither this treatment of the line, nor the line itself
apart from this treatment, can easily be justified.

+Stanza 33,+ 11. 1, 2. _His head was bound with pansies overblown,
And faded violets._ The pansy is the flower of thought, or memory:
we commonly call it heartsease, but Shelley no doubt uses it here
with a different, or indeed contrary, meaning. The violet indicates
modesty. A stanza from one of his lyrics may be appropriately
cited--_Remembrance_, dated 1821:--

'Lilies for a bridal bed,
Roses for a matron's head,
Violets for a maiden dead,
Pansies let _my_ flowers be.
  On the living grave I bear
  Scatter them without a tear;
  Let no friend, however dear,
Waste a hope, a fear, for me.'

1. 3. _A light spear topped with a cypress cone._ The funereal cypress
explains itself.

1. 4. _Dark ivy tresses._ The ivy indicates constancy in friendship.

+Stanza 34,+ 1. 1. _His partial moan._ The epithet 'partial' is
accounted for by what immediately follows--viz. that Shelley 'in
another's fate now wept his own.' He, like Keats, was the object of
critical virulence, and he was wont (but on very different grounds) to
anticipate an early death. See (on p. 34) the expression in a letter
from Shelley--'a writer who, however he may differ,' &c.

1. 4. _As in the accents of an unknown land He sang new sorrow._ It is
not very clear why Shelley should represent that he, as one of the
Mountain Shepherds, used a language different (as one might infer) from
that of his companions. All those whom he particularizes were his
compatriots. Perhaps however Shelley merely means that the language
(English) was that of a land unknown to the Greek deity Aphrodite
Urania. The phrase 'new sorrow' occurs in the Elegy by Moschus (p. 65).
By the use of this phrase Shelley seems to mean not merely that the
death of Keats was a recent and sorrowful event, but more especially
that it constituted a new sorrow--one more sorrow--to Shelley himself.

11. 3, 5. I reproduce the punctuation of the Pisan edition, with a colon
after 'his own,' and a semicolon after 'sorrow.' It appears to me
however that the sense would rather require either a full stop after
'his own,' and a comma after 'sorrow,' or else a comma after 'his own,'
and a full stop or colon after 'sorrow.' Yet it is possible that the
phrase, 'As in the accents,' &c., forms a separate clause by itself,
meaning, 'As _if_ in the accents of an unknown land, he sang new

11. 8, 9. _Made bare his branded and ensanguined brow, Which was like
Cain's or Christ's._ Shelley represents his own brow as being branded
like Cain's--stamped with the mark of reprobation; and ensanguined like
Christ's--bleeding from a crown of thorns. This indicates the extreme
repugnance with which he was generally regarded, and in especial perhaps
the decree of the Court of Chancery which deprived him of his children
by his first marriage--and generally the troubles and sufferings which
he had undergone. The close coupling-together, in this line, of the
names of Cain and Christ, was not likely to conciliate antagonists; and
indeed one may safely surmise that it was done by Shelley more for the
rather wanton purpose of exasperating them than with any other
object.--In this stanza Urania appears for the last time.

+Stanza 35,+ 1, 1. _What softer voice is hushed over the dead?_ The
personage here referred to is Leigh Hunt. See p. 45.

1. 6. _Gentlest of the wise._ It is apparent that Shelley entertained a
very sincere affection and regard for Leigh Hunt. He dedicated to Hunt
the tragedy of _The Cenci_, using the following expressions among
others: 'Had I known a person more highly endowed than yourself with all
that it becomes a man to possess, I had solicited for this work the
ornament of his name. One more gentle, honourable, innocent, and brave;
one of more exalted toleration for all who do and think evil, and yet
himself more free from evil; one who knows better how to receive and how
to confer a benefit, though he must ever confer far more than he can
receive; one of simpler and (in the highest sense of the word) of purer
life and manners, I never knew: and I had already been fortunate in
friendships when your name was added to the list.'

1. 7. _Taught, soothed, loved, honoured, the departed one._ It has
sometimes been maintained that Hunt, whatever may have been the personal
friendship which he felt for Keats, did not, during the latter's
lifetime, champion his literary cause with so much zeal as might have
been expected from his professions. This is a point open to a good deal
of discussion from both sides. Mr. Buxton Forman, who, as Editor of
Keats, had occasion to investigate the matter attentively, pronounces
decidedly in favour of Hunt.

+Stanza 36,+ 1. 1. _Our Adonais has drunk poison._ Founded on those
lines of Moschus which appear as a motto to Shelley's Elegy. See also p.

1. 2. _What deaf and viperous murderer._ Deaf, because insensible to the
beauty of Keats's verse; and viperous, because poisonous and malignant.
The juxtaposition of the two epithets may probably be also partly
dependent on that passage in the Psalms (lviii. 4, 5) which has become
proverbial: 'They are as venomous as the poison of a serpent: even like
the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears; which refuseth to hear the voice
of the charmer, charm he never so wisely.'

1. 4. _The nameless worm._ A worm, as being one of the lowest forms of
life, is constantly used as a term implying contempt; but it may be
assumed that Shelley here uses 'worm' in its original sense, that of any
crawling creature, more especially of the snake kind. There would thus
be no departure from the previous epithet 'viperous.' See the remarks as
to 'reptiles,' St. 29.

11. 5, 6. _The magic tone Whose prelude,_ &c. Shelley, it will be
perceived, here figures Keats as a minstrel striking the lyre, and
preparing to sing. He strikes the lyre in a 'magic tone'; the very
'prelude' of this was enough to command silent expectation. This prelude
is the poem of _Endymion_, to which the _Quarterly_ reviewer alone
(according to Shelley) was insensitive, owing to feelings of 'envy,
hate, and wrong.' The prelude was only an induction to the
'song,'--which was eventually poured forth in the _Lamia_ volume, and
especially (as our poet opined) in _Hyperion_. But now Keats's hand is
cold in death, and his lyre unstrung. As I have already observed--see p.
35, &c.--Shelley was mistaken in supposing that the _Quarterly Review_
had held a monopoly of 'envy, hate, and wrong'--or, as one might now
term them, detraction, spite, and unfairness--in reference to Keats.

+Stanza 37,+ 1. 4. _But be thyself, and know thyself to be!_ The precise
import of this line is not, I think, entirely plain at first sight. I
conceive that we should take the line as immediately consequent upon the
preceding words--'Live thou, live!' Premising this, one might amplify
the idea as follows; 'While Keats is dead, be it thy doom, thou his deaf
and viperous murderer, to live! But thou shalt live in thine own
degraded identity, and shalt thyself be conscious how degraded thou
art.' Another suggestion might be that the words 'But be thyself are
equivalent to 'Be but thyself.'

11. 5, 6. _And ever at thy season be thou free To spill the venom when
thy fangs o'erflow._ This keeps up the image of the 'viperous'
murderer--the viper. 'At thy season' can be understood as a reference to
the periodical issues of the _Quarterly Review_. The word 'o'erflow' is,
in the Pisan edition, printed as two words--'o'er flow.'

1. 7. _Remorse and self-contempt._ Shelley frequently dwells upon
self-contempt as one of the least tolerable of human distresses.
Thus in the _Revolt of Islam_ (Canto 8, st. 20):

'Yes, it is Hate--that shapeless fiendly thing
Of many names, all evil, some divine--
Whom self-contempt arms with a mortal sting,' &c.

And in _Prometheus Unbound_ (Act i)--

                 'Regard this earth
Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou
Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise?
And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,
With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.'

Again (Act ii, sc. 4)--

'And self-contempt, bitterer to drink than blood.'

+Stanza 38,+ 1. 1. _Nor let us weep,_ &c. So far as the broad current of
sentiment is concerned, this is the turning-point of Shelley's Elegy.
Hitherto the tone has been continuously, and through a variety of
phases, one of mourning for the fact that Keats, the great poetical
genius, is untimely dead. But now the writer pauses, checks himself, and
recognises that mourning is not the only possible feeling, nor indeed
the most appropriate one. As his thought expands and his rapture rises,
he soon acknowledges that, so far from grieving for Keats who _is_ dead,
it were far more relevant to grieve for himself who is _not_ dead. This
paean of recantation and aspiration occupies the remainder of the poem.

1. 2. _These carrion kites._ A term of disparagement corresponding
nearly enough to the 'ravens' and 'vultures' of st. 28.

1. 3. _He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead._ With such of the dead
as have done something which survives themselves. It will be observed
that the phrase 'he wakes _or_ sleeps' leaves the question of personal
or individual immortality quite open. As to this point see the remarks
on p. 54, &c.

1. 4. Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now. This is again
addressed to the 'deaf and viperous murderer,' regarded for the
moment as a 'carrion kite.' As kites are eminently high flyers,
the phrase here used becomes the more emphatic. This line of
Shelley's is obviously adapted from a passage in Milton's _Paradise
Lost_, where Satan addresses the angels in Eden (Book 4)--

             'Ye knew me once, no mate
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar.'

1. 5. _The pure spirit shall flow_, &c. The spirit which once was the
vital or mental essence--the soul--of Adonais came from the Eternal
Soul, and, now that he is dead, is re-absorbed into the Eternal Soul: as
such, it is imperishable.

1. 9. _Whilst thy cold embers choke_, &c. The spirit of Adonais came as
a flame from the 'burning fountain' of the Eternal, and has now reverted
thither, he being one of the 'enduring dead.' But the 'deaf and viperous
murderer' must not hope for a like destiny. His spirit, after death,
will be merely like 'cold embers,' cumbering the 'hearth of shame.' As a
rhetorical antithesis, this serves its purpose well: no doubt Shelley
would not have pretended that it is a strictly reasoned antithesis as
well, or furnishes a full account of the _post-mortem_ fate of the
_Quarterly_ reviewer.

+Stanza 39,+ 11. 1, 2. _Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not
sleep! He hath awakened from the dream of life._ Shelley now
proceeds boldly to declare that the state which we call death is to
be preferred to that which we call life. Keats is neither dead nor
sleeping. He used to be asleep, perturbed and tantalized by the
dream which is termed life. Having at last awakened from the
dream, he is no longer asleep: and, if life is no more than a dream,
neither does the cessation of life deserve to be named death.
The transition from one emotion to another in this passage, and
also in the preceding stanza, 'Nor let us weep,' &c., resembles
the transition towards the close of _Lycidas_--

'Weep no more, woful shepherds, weep no more,
For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead,' &c.

The general view has considerable affinity to that which is
expounded in a portion of Plato's dialogue _Phaedo_, and which has
been thus summarised. 'Death is merely the separation of soul
and body. And this is the very consummation at which Philosophy
aims: the body hinders thought,--the mind attains to truth
by retiring into herself. Through no bodily sense does she perceive
justice, beauty, goodness, and other ideas. The philosopher
has a lifelong quarrel with bodily desires, and he should welcome
the release of his soul.'

1. 3. _'Tis we who, lost in stormy visions_, &c. We, the so-called
living, are in fact merely beset by a series of stormy visions which
constitute life; all our efforts are expended upon mere phantoms, and
are therefore profitless; our mental conflict is an act of trance,
exercised upon mere nothings. The very energetic expression, 'strike
with our spirit's knife invulnerable nothings,' is worthy of remark. It
will be remembered that, according to Shelley's belief, 'nothing exists
but as it is perceived': see p. 56. The view of life expressed with
passionate force in this passage of _Adonais_ is the same which forms
the calm and placid conclusion of _The Sensitive Plant_, a poem written
in 1820;--

               'But, in this life
Of error, ignorance, and strife,
Where nothing is but all things seem.
And we the shadows of the dream,

It is a modest creed, and yet
Pleasant if one considers it,
To own that death itself must be,
Like all the rest, a mockery.

That garden sweet, that Lady fair,
And all sweet shapes and odours there,
In truth have never passed away:
'Tis we, 'tis ours, are changed; not they.

For love, and beauty, and delight,
There is no death nor change; their might
Exceeds our organs, which endure
No light, being themselves obscure.'

11. 6, 7. _We decay Like corpses in a charnel_, &c. Human life consists
of a process of decay. While living, we are consumed by fear and grief;
our disappointed hopes swarm in our living persons like worms in our

+Stanza 40,+ 1. 1. _He has outsoared the shadow of our night._ As human
life was in the last stanza represented as a dream, so the state of
existence in which it is enacted is here figured as night.

1. 5. _From the contagion of the world's slow stain._ It may be said
that 'the world's slow stain'--the lowering influence of the aims and
associations of all ordinary human life--is the main subject-matter of
Shelley's latest important poem, _The Triumph of Life._

1. 9. _With sparkless ashes._ See the cognate expression, 'thy cold
embers,' in st. 38.

+Stanza 41,+ 1. 1. _He lives, he wakes--'tis Death is dead, not he._ In
the preceding three stanzas Adonais is contemplated as being alive,
owing to the very fact that his death has awakened him 'from the dream
of life'--mundane life. Death has bestowed upon him a vitality superior
to that of mundane life. Death therefore has performed an act contrary
to his own essence as death, and has practically killed, not Adonais,
but himself.

1. 2. _Thou young Dawn._ We here recur to the image in st. 14, 'Morning
sought her eastern watch-tower,' &c.

1. 5. _Ye caverns and ye forests_, &c. The poet now adjures the caverns,
forests, flowers, fountains, and air, to 'cease to moan.' Of the flowers
we had heard in st. 16: but the other features of Nature which are now
addressed had not previously been individually mentioned--except, to
some extent, by implication, in st. 15, which refers more directly to
'Echo.' The reference to the air had also been, in a certain degree,
prepared for in stanza 23. The stars are said to smile on the Earth's
despair. This does not, I apprehend, indicate any despair of the Earth
consequent on the death of Adonais, but a general condition of woe. A
reference of a different kind to stars--a figurative reference--appears
in st. 29.

+Stanza 42,+ 1. 1. _He is made one with Nature._ This stanza ascribes to
Keats the same phase of immortality which belongs to Nature. Having
'awakened from the dream of [mundane] life,' his spirit forms an
integral portion of the universe. Those acts of intellect which he
performed in the flesh remain with us, as thunder and the song of the
nightingale remain with us.

11. 6, 7. _Where'er that power may move Which has withdrawn his being to
its own._ This corresponds to the expression in st. 38--'The pure spirit
shall flow Back to the burning fountain whence it came, A portion of the

1. 8. _Who wields the world with never wearied love_, &c. These two
lines are about the nearest approach to definite Theism to be found in
any writing of Shelley. The conception, which may amount to Theism, is
equally consistent with Pantheism. Even in his most anti-theistic poem,
_Queen Mab_, Shelley said in a note--'The hypothesis of a pervading
Spirit, co-eternal with the universe, remains unshaken.'

+Stanza 43,+ 11. 1-3. _He is a portion of the loveliness Which ones he
made more lovely. He doth bear his part_, &c. The conception embodied in
this passage may become more clear to the reader if its terms are
pondered in connexion with the passage of Shelley's prose extracted on
p. 56--'The existence of distinct individual minds,' &c. Keats, while a
living man, had made the loveliness of the universe more lovely by
expressing in poetry his acute and subtle sense of its beauties--by
lavishing on it (as we say) 'the colours of his imagination,' He was
then an 'individual mind'--according to the current, but (as Shelley
held) inexact terminology. He has now, by death, wholly passed out of
the class of individual minds; and he forms a portion of the Universal
Mind (the 'One Spirit') which is the animation of the universe.

11. 3, 4. _While the One Spirit's plastic stress Sweeps through the dull
dense world_, &c. The function ascribed in these lines to the One Spirit
is a formative or animating function: the Spirit constitutes the life of
'trees and beasts and men.' This view is strictly within the limits of

+Stanza 44,+ 1. 1. _The splendours of the firmament of time_, &c. As
there are stars in the firmament of heaven, so are there
splendours--luminous intellects--in the firmament of time. The stars,
though at times eclipsed, are not extinguished; nor yet the mental
luminaries. This asseveration may be considered in connexion with the
passage in st. 5: 'Others more sublime, Struck by the envious wrath of
man or God, Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime.'

11. 5, 6. _When lofty thought Lifts a young heart_, &c. The sense of
this passage may be paraphrased thus:--When lofty thought lifts a young
heart above its mundane environments, and when its earthly doom has to
be determined by the conflicting influences of love, which would elevate
it, and the meaner cares and interests of life, which would drag it
downwards, then the illustrious dead live again in that heart--for its
higher emotions are nurtured by their noble thoughts and
aspirations,--and they move, like exhalations of light along dark and
stormy air. This illustrates the previous proposition, that the
splendours of the firmament of time are not extinguished; and, in the
most immediate application of the proposition, Keats is not
extinguished--he will continue an ennobling influence upon minds
struggling towards the light.

+Stanza 45,+ 1. 2. _The inheritors of unfulfilled renown Rose from their
thrones._ There is a grand abruptness in this phrase, which makes it--as
a point of poetical or literary structure--one of the finest things in
the Elegy. We are to understand (but Shelley is too great a master to
formulate it in words) that Keats, as an 'inheritor of unfulfilled
renown'--i.e. a great intellect cut off by death before its maturest
fruits could be produced--has now arrived among his compeers: they rise
from their thrones to welcome him. In this connexion Shelley chooses to
regard Keats as still a living spiritual personality--not simply as
'made one with Nature.' He is one of those 'splendours of the firmament
of time' who 'may be eclipsed, but are extinguished not.'

11. 3-5. _Chatterton Rose pale, his solemn agony had not Yet faded from
him._ For precocity and exceptional turn of genius Chatterton was
certainly one of the most extraordinary of 'the inheritors of
unfulfilled renown'; indeed, the most extraordinary: he committed
suicide by poison in 1770, before completing the eighteenth year of his
age. His supposititious modern-antique _Poems of Rowley_ may, as actual
achievements, have been sometimes overpraised: but at the lowest
estimate they have beauties and excellences of the most startling kind.
He wrote besides a quantity of verse and prose, of a totally different
order. Keats admired Chatterton profoundly, and dedicated _Endymion_ to
his memory. I cannot find that Shelley, except in _Adonais_, has left
any remarks upon Chatterton: but he is said by Captain Medwin to have
been, in early youth, very much impressed by his writings.

1. 5. _Sidney, as he fought_, &c. Sir Philip Sidney, author of _The
Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia_, the _Apology for Poetry_, and the
sonnets named _Astrophel and Stella_, died in his thirty-second year, of
a wound received in the battle of Zutphen, 1586. Shelley intimates that
Sidney maintained the character of being 'sublimely mild' in fighting,
falling (dying), and loving, as well as generally in living. The special
references appear to be these. (1) Sidney, observing that the Lord
Marshal, the Earl of Leicester, had entered the field of Zutphen without
greaves, threw off his own, and thus exposed himself to the cannon-shot
which slew him. (2) Being mortally wounded, and receiving a cup of
water, he handed it (according to a tradition which is not
unquestionable) to a dying soldier. (3) His series of sonnets record his
love for Penelope Devereux, sister to the Earl of Essex, who married
Lord Rich. She had at one time been promised to Sidney. He wrote the
sonnets towards 1581: in 1583 he married another lady, daughter of Sir
Francis Walsingham. It has been said that Shelley was wont to make some
self-parade in connexion with Sir Philip Sidney, giving it to be
understood that he was himself a descendant of the hero--which was not
true, although the Sidney blood came into a different line of the
family. Of this story I have not found any tangible confirmation.

1. 8. _Lucan, by his death approved._ Lucan, the author of the
_Pharsalia_, was condemned under Nero as being an accomplice in the
conspiracy of Piso: he caused his veins to be opened, and died
magnanimously, aged about twenty-six, A.D. 65. Shelley, in one instance,
went so far as to pronounce Lucan superior to Vergil.

+Stanza 46,+ 11. 1, 2. _And many more, whose names on earth are dark,
But whose transmitted effluence cannot die_, &c. This glorious company
would include no doubt, not only the recorders of great thoughts, or
performers of great deeds, which are still borne in memory although the
names of the authors are forgotten, but also many whose work is as
totally unknown as their names, but who exerted nevertheless a bright
and elevating ascendant over other minds, and who thus conduced to the
greatness of human-kind.

1. 6. _It was for thee_, &c. The synod of the inheritors of unfulfilled
renown here invite Keats to assume possession of a sphere, or
constellation, which had hitherto been 'kingless,' or unappropriated. It
had 'swung blind in unascended majesty': had not been assigned to any
radiant spirit, whose brightness would impart brilliancy to the sphere

1. 8. _Silent alone amid an heaven of song._ This phrase points
primarily to 'the music of the spheres': the sphere now assigned to
Keats had hitherto failed to take part in the music of its fellows, but
henceforward will chime in. Probably there is also a subsidiary, but in
its context not less prominent meaning--namely, that, while the several
poets (such as Chatterton, Sidney, and Lucan) had each a vocal sphere of
his own, apposite to his particular poetic quality, the sphere which
Keats is now to control had hitherto remained unoccupied because no poet
of that special type of genius which it demanded had as yet appeared.
Its affinity was for Keats, and for no one else. This is an implied
attestation of Keats's poetic originality.

1. 9. _Assume thy wingèd throne, thou Vesper of our throng!_ The wingèd
throne is, I think, a synonym of the 'sphere' itself--not a throne
within the sphere: 'wingèd,' because the sphere revolves in space. Yet
the statement in stanza 45 that 'the inheritors of unfulfilled renown
rose from their thrones' (which cannot be taken to represent distinct
spheres or constellations) suggests the opposite interpretation. Keats
is termed 'thou Vesper of our throng' because he is the latest member of
this glorified band--or, reckoning the lapse of ages as if they were but
a day, its 'evening star.' The exceptional brilliancy of the Vesper star
is not, I think, implied--though it may be remotely suggested.

+Stanza 47,+ 1. 3. _Clasp with thy panting soul_, &c. The significance
of this stanza--perhaps a rather obscure one--requires to be estimated
as a whole. Shelley summons any person who persists in mourning for
Adonais to realise to his own mind what are the true terms of comparison
between Adonais and himself. After this, he says in this stanza no more
about Adonais, but only about the mourner. He calls upon the mourner to
consider (1) the magnitude of the planet earth; then, using the earth as
his centre, to consider (2) the whole universe of worlds, and the
illimitable void of space beyond all worlds; next he is to consider (3)
what he himself is--he is confined within the day and night of our
planet, and, even within those restricted limits, he is but an
infinitesimal point. After he shall have realised this to himself, and
after the tension of his soul in ranging through the universe and
through space shall have kindled hope after hope, wonderment and
aspiration after aspiration and wonderment, then indeed will he need to
keep his heart light, lest it make him sink at the contemplation of his
own nullity.

1. 9. _And lured thee to the brink._ This phrase is not definitely
accounted for in the preceding exposition. I think Shelley means that
the successive hopes kindled in the mourner by the ideas of a boundless
universe of space and of spirit will have lured him to the very brink of
mundane life--to the borderland between life and death: he will almost
have been tempted to have done with life, and to explore the
possibilities of death.

+Stanza 48,+ 1. 1. _Or go to Rome._ This is still addressed to the
mourner, the 'fond wretch' of the preceding stanza. He is here invited
to adopt a different test for 'knowing himself and Adonais aright';
namely, he is to visit Rome, and muse over the grave of the youthful

11. 1, 2. _Which is the sepulchre, Oh not of him, but of our joy._ Keats
is not entombed in Rome: his poor mortal remains are there entombed,
and, along with them, the joy which we felt in him as a living and
breathing presence.

11. 2, 3. _'Tis nought That ages, empires, and religions, &c._ Keats,
and others such as he, derive no adventitious honour from being buried
in Rome, amid the wreck of ages, empires, and religions: rather they
confer honour. He is among his peers, the kings of thought, who, so far
from being dragged down in the ruin of institutions, contended against
that ruin, and are alone immortal while all the rest of the past has
come to nought. This consideration may be said to qualify, but not to
reverse, that which is presented in stanza 7, that Keats 'bought, with
price of purest breath, a grave among the eternal'; those eternal ones,
buried in Rome, include many of the 'kings of thought.'

+Stanza 46,+ 11. 3, 4. _And where its wrecks like shattered mountains
rise, And flowering weeds_, &c. These expressions point more especially,
but not exclusively, to the Coliseum and the Baths of Caracalla. In
Shelley's time (and something alike was the case in 1862, the year when
the present writer saw them first) both these vast monuments were in a
state wholly different from that which they now, under the hands of
learned archaeologists and skilled restorers, present to the eye.
Shelley began, probably in 1819, a romantic or ideal tale named _The
Coliseum_; and, ensconced amid the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, he
composed, in the same year, a large part of _Promethens Unbound_. A few
extracts from his letters may here be given appropriately. (To T.L.
Peacock, 22 December, 18i8). 'The Coliseum is unlike any work of human
hands I ever saw before. It is of enormous height and circuit, and the
arches, built of massy stones, are piled, on one another, and jut into
the blue air, shattered into the forms of overhanging rocks. It has been
changed by time into the image of an amphitheatre of rocky hills
overgrown by the wild olive, the myrtle, and the figtree, and threaded
by little paths which wind among its ruined stairs and immeasurable
galleries: the copsewood overshadows you as you wander through its
labyrinths.'--(To the same, 23 March, 1819). 'The next most considerable
relic of antiquity, considered as a ruin, is the Thermae of Caracalla.
These consist of six enormous chambers, above 200 feet in height, and
each enclosing a vast space like that of a field. There are in addition
a number of towers and labyrinthine recesses, hidden and woven over by
the wild growth of weeds and ivy. Never was any desolation so sublime
and lovely.... At every step the aërial pinnacles of shattered stone
group into new combinations of effect, and tower above the lofty yet
level walls, as the distant mountains change their aspect to one
travelling rapidly along the plain.... Around rise other crags and other
peaks--all arrayed, and the deformity of their vast desolation softened
down, by the undecaying investiture of Nature.'

1. 7. _A slope of green access._ The old Protestant Cemetery. Shelley
described it thus in his letter to Mr. Peacock of 22 December, 1818.
'The English burying-place is a green slope near the walls, under the
pyramidal tomb of Cestius, and is, I think, the most beautiful and
solemn cemetery I ever beheld. To see the sun shining on its bright
grass, fresh, when we visited it, with the autumnal dews, and hear the
whispering of the wind among the leaves of the trees which have
overgrown the tomb of Cestius, and the soil which is stirring in the
sun-warm earth, and to mark the tombs, mostly of women and young people
who were buried there, one might, if one were to die, desire the sleep
they seem to sleep. Such is the human mind, and so it peoples with its
wishes vacancy and oblivion.'--See also pp. 69, 70.

+Stanza 50,+ 1. 3. _One keen pyramid._ The tomb (see last note) of Caius
Cestius, a Tribune of the People.

11. 4, 5. _The dust of him who planned This refuge for his memory._
Shelley probably means that this sepulchral pyramid alone preserves to
remembrance the name of Cestius: which is true enough, as next to
nothing is otherwise known about him.

1. 8. _Have pitched in heaven's smile their camp of death._ The practice
which Shelley follows in this line of making 'heaven' a dissyllable is
very frequent with him. So also with 'even, higher,' and other such

+Stanza 51,+ 11. 3, 4. _If the seal is set Here on one fountain of a
mourning mind._ Shelley certainly alludes to himself in this line. His
beloved son William, who died in June 1819, in the fourth year of his
age, was buried in this cemetery: the precise spot is not now known.

11. 5-7. _Too surely shalt thou find Thine own well full, if thou
returnest home, Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind_, &c.
The apposition between the word 'well' and the preceding word 'fountain'
will be observed. The person whom Shelley addresses would, on returning
home from the cemetery, find more than, ample cause, of one sort or
another, for distress and discomposure. Hence follows the conclusion
that he would do well to 'seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb': he
should prefer the condition of death to that of life. And so we reach in
stanza 51 the same result which, in stanza 47, was deduced from a
different range of considerations.

+Stanza 52,+ 1. 1. _The One remains, the many change and pass._ See the
notes on stanzas 42 and 43. 'The One' is the same as 'the One Spirit' in
stanza 43--the Universal Mind. The Universal Mind has already been
spoken of (stanza 38) as 'the Eternal.' On the other hand, 'the many'
are the individuated minds which we call 'human beings': they 'change
and pass'--the body perishing, the mind which informed it being (in
whatever sense) reabsorbed into 'the Eternal.'

1. 2. _Heaven's light for ever shines, earth's shadows fly._ This is in
strictness a physical descriptive image: in application, it means the
same as the preceding line.

11. 3-5. _Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white
radiance of eternity, Until Death tramples it to fragments._ Perhaps a
more daring metaphorical symbol than this has never been employed by any
poet, nor one that has a deeper or a more spacious meaning. Eternity is
figured as white light--light in its quintessence. Life, mundane life,
is as a dome of glass, which becomes many-coloured by its prismatic
diffraction of the white light: its various prisms reflect eternity at
different angles. Death ultimately tramples the glass dome into
fragments; each individual life is shattered, and the whole integer of
life, constituted of the many individual lives, is shattered. If
everything else written by Shelley were to perish, and only this
consummate image to remain--so vast in purport, so terse in form--he
would still rank as a poet of lofty imagination. _Ex pede Herculem._

11. 5, 6. _Die, If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek._ This
phrase is addressed by the poet to anybody, and more especially to
himself. As in stanza 38--'The pure spirit shall flow Back to the
burning fountain whence it came, A portion of the Eternal.'

11. 7-9. _Rome's azure sky, Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are
weak The glory thy transfuse with fitting truth to speak._ I follow here
the punctuation of the Pisan edition--with a comma after 'words,' as
well as after 'sky, flowers,' &c. According to this punctuation, the
words of Rome, as well as her sky and other beautiful endowments, are
too weak to declare at full the glory which they impart; and the
inference from this rather abruptly introduced recurrence to Rome is (I
suppose), that the spiritual glory faintly adumbrated by Rome can only
be realised in that realm of eternity to which death gives access. Taken
in this sense, the 'words' of Rome appear to mean 'the beautiful
language spoken in Rome'--the Roman or Latin language, as modified into
modern Italian. The pronunciation of Italian in Rome is counted
peculiarly pure and rich: hence the Italian axiom, 'lingua toscana in
bocca romana'--Tuscan tongue in Roman mouth. At first sight, it would
seem far more natural to punctuate thus: Rome's azure sky, Flowers,
ruins, statues, music,--words are weak The glory, &c. The sense would
then be--Words are too weak to declare at full the glory inherent in the
sky, flowers, &c. of Rome. Yet, although this seems a more
straightforward arrangement for the words of the sentence, as such, it
is not clear that such a comment on the beauties of Rome would have any
great relevancy in its immediate context.

+Stanza 53,+ 1. 2. _Thy hopes are gone before_, &c. This stanza contains
some very pointed references to the state of Shelley's feelings at the
time when he was writing _Adonais_; pointed, but not so clearly defined
as to make his actual meaning transparent. We are told that his hopes
are gone before (i.e. have vanished before the close of his life has
come), and have departed from all things here. This may partly refer to
the deaths of William Shelley and of Keats; but I think the purport of
the phrase extends further, and implies that Shelley's hopes
generally--those animating conceptions which had inspired him in early
youth, and had buoyed him up through many adversities--are now waning in
disappointment. This is confirmed by the ensuing statement--that 'a
light is past from the revolving year [a phrase repeated from stanza
18], and man and woman.' Next we are told that 'what still is dear
Attracts to crush, repels to make thee [me] wither.' The _persons_ who
were more particularly dear to Shelley at this time must have been (not
to mention the two children Percy Florence Shelley and Allegra
Clairmont) his wife, Miss Clairmont, Emilia Viviani, and Lieutenant and
Mrs. Williams: Byron, Leigh Hunt, and Godwin, can hardly be in question.
No doubt Shelley's acute feelings and mobile sympathies involved him in
some considerable agitations, from time to time, with all the four
ladies here named: but the strong expressions which he uses as to
attracting and repelling, crushing and withering, seem hardly likely to
have been employed by him in this personal sense, in a published book.
Perhaps therefore we shall be safest in supposing that he alludes, not
to _persons_ who are dear, but to circumstances and conditions of a more
general kind--such as are involved in his self-portraiture, stanzas

1. 8. _'Tis Adonais calls! oh hasten thither!_ 'Thither' must mean 'to
Adonais': a laxity of expression.

+Stanza 64,+ 1. 1. _That light whose smile kindles the universe_, &c.
This is again the 'One Spirit' of stanza 43. And see, in stanza 42, the
cognate expression, 'kindles it above.'

11. 3, 4. _That benediction which the eclipsing curse Of birth can
quench not._ The curse of birth is, I think, simply the calamitous
condition of mundane life--so often referred to in this Elegy as a
condition of abjection and unhappiness. The curse of birth can eclipse
the benediction of Universal Mind, but cannot quench it: in other words,
the human mind, in its passage from the birth to the death of the body,
is still an integral portion of the Universal Mind.

1. 7. _Each are mirrors._ This is of course a grammatical
irregularity--the verb should be 'is.' It is not the only instance of
the same kind in Shelley's poetry.

1. 9. _Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality._ This does not imply
that Shelley is shortly about to die. 'Cold mortality' is that condition
in which the human mind, a portion of the Universal Mind, is united to a
mortal body: and the general sense is that the Universal Mind at this
moment beams with such effulgence upon Shelley that his mind responds to
it as if the mortal body no longer interposed any impediment.

+Stanza 55,+ 1. 1. _The breath whose might I have invoked in song._ The
breath or afflatus of the Universal Mind. It has been 'invoked in song'
throughout the whole later section of this Elegy, from stanza 38

1. 2. _My spirits bark is driven_, &c. As was observed with reference to
the preceding stanza, line 9, this phrase does not forecast the author's
death: it only re-emphasises the abnormal illumination of his mind by
the Universal Mind--as if his spirit (like that of Keats) 'had flowed
back to the burning fountain whence it came, a portion of the Eternal'
(stanza 38). Nevertheless, it is very remarkable that this image of 'the
spirit's _bark_,' beaconed by 'the soul of Adonais,' should have been
written so soon before Shelley's death by drowning, which occurred on 8
July, 1822,--but little more than a year after he had completed this
Elegy. Besides this passage, there are in Shelley's writings, both verse
and prose, several other passages noticeable on the same
account--relating to drowning, and sometimes with a strong personal
application; and in various instances he was in imminent danger of this
mode of death before the end came.

11. 3, 4. _Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng Whose sails
were never to the tempest given._ In saying that his spirit's bark is
driven far from the shore, Shelley apparently means that his mind, in
speculation and aspiration, ranges far beyond those mundane and material
interests with which the mass of men are ordinarily concerned. 'The
trembling throng' is, I think, a throng of men: though it might be a
throng of barks, contrasted with 'my spirit's bark.' Their sails 'were
never to the tempest given,' in the sense that they never set forth on a
bold ideal or spiritual adventure, abandoning themselves to the stress
and sway of a spiritual storm.

1. 5. _The massy earth_, &c. As the poet launches forth on his voyage
upon the ocean of mind, the earth behind him seems to gape, and the sky
above him to open: his course however is still held on in darkness--the
arcanum is hardly or not at all revealed.

1. 7. _Whilst burning through the inmost veil_, &c. A star pilots his
course: it is the soul of Adonais, which, being still 'a portion of the
Eternal' (st. 38), is in 'the abode where the Eternal are,' and
testifies to the eternity of mind. In this passage, and in others
towards the conclusion of the poem, we find the nearest approach which
Shelley can furnish to an answer to that question which he asked in
stanza 20--'Shall that alone which knows Be as a sword consumed before
the sheath By sightless lightning?'

+Stanzas 4. to 6+--(I add here a note out of its due place, which would
be on p. 101: at the time when it occurred to me to raise this point,
the printing had gone too far to allow of my inserting the remark
there.)--On considering these three stanzas collectively, it may perhaps
be felt that the references to Milton and to Keats are more advisedly
interdependent than my notes on the details of the stanzas suggest.
Shelley may have wished to indicate a certain affinity between the
inspiration of Milton as the poet of _Paradise Lost_, and that of Keats
as the poet of _Hyperion_. Urania had had to bewail the death of Milton,
who died old when 'the priest, the slave, and the liberticide,' outraged
England. Now she has to bewail the death of her latest-born, Keats, who
has died young, and (as Shelley thought) in a similarly disastrous
condition of the national affairs. Had he not been 'struck by the
envious wrath of man,' he might even have 'dared to climb' to the
'bright station' occupied by Milton.--The phrase in st. 4, 'Most musical
of mourners, weep again,' with what follows regarding grief for the loss
of Milton, and again of Keats, is modelled upon the passage in Moschus
(p. 65)--'This, O most musical of rivers, is thy second sorrow,--this,
Meles, thy new woe. Of old didst thou love Homer:... now again another
son thou weepest.' My remark upon st. 13, that there Shelley first had
direct recourse to the Elegy of Moschus, should be modified accordingly.

_Cancelled Passages of Adonais, Preface._ These are taken from Dr.
Garnett's _Relics of Shelley_, published in 1862. He says: 'Among
Shelley's MSS. is a fair copy of the _Defence of Poetry_, apparently
damaged by sea-water, and illegible in many places. Being prepared for
the printer, it is written on one side of the paper only: on the blank
pages, but frequently undecipherable for the reason just indicated, are
many passages intended for, but eventually omitted from, the preface to

_I have employed my poetical compositions and publications simply as the
instruments of that sympathy between myself and others which the ardent
and unbounded love I cherished for my kind incited me to acquire._ This
is an important indication of the spirit in which Shelley wrote, and
consequently of that in which his reader should construe his writings.
He poured out his full heart, craving for 'sympathy.' Loving mankind, he
wished to find some love in response.

_Domestic conspiracy and legal oppression_, &c. The direct reference
here is to the action taken by Shelley's father-in-law and
sister-in-law, Mr. and Miss Westbrook, which resulted in the decree of
Lord Chancellor Eldon whereby Shelley was deprived of the custody of the
two children of his first marriage. See p. 12. _As a bankrupt thief
turns thief-taker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic._
Various writers have said something of this kind. I am not sure how far
back the sentiment can be traced; but I presume that Shelley was not the
first. Some readers will remember a passage in the dedication to his
_Peter Bell the Third_ (1819), which forestalled Macaulay's famous
phrase about the 'New Zealander on the ruins of London Bridge.' Shelley
wrote: 'In the firm expectation that, when London shall be an habitation
of bitterns;... when the piers of Waterloo Bridge shall become the
nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers, and cast the jagged shadows of
their broken arches on the solitary stream; some Transatlantic
commentator will be weighing, in the scales of some new and unimagined
system of criticism, the respective merits of the Bells and the Fudges,
and their historians, I remain,' &c.

_The offence of this poor victim seems to have consisted solely in his
intimacy with Leigh Hunt_, &c. See the remarks on p. 45. There can be no
doubt that Shelley was substantially correct in this opinion. Not only
the _Quarterly Review_, of which he knew, but also _Blackwood's
Magazine_, which did not come under his notice, abused Keats because he
was personally acquainted with Hunt, and was, in one degree or another,
a member of the literary coterie in which Hunt held a foremost place.
And Hunt was in bad odour with these reviews because he was a hostile
politician, still more than because of any actual or assumed defects in
his performances as an ordinary man of letters.

_Mr. Hazlitt._ William Hazlitt was (it need scarcely be said) a
miscellaneous writer of much influence in these years, in politics an
advanced Liberal. A selection of his writings was issued by Mr. William
Ireland in 1889. Keats admired Hazlitt much more than Hunt.

_I wrote to him, suggesting the propriety_, &c. See pp. 14, 15.

_Cancelled Passages of Adonais_ (the poem). These passages also were in
the first instance published in the _Shelley Relics_ of Dr. Garnett.
They come, not from the same MS. which contains the prefatory fragments,
but from some of Shelley's notebooks.

+Stanza 1,+ 1. 1. _And the green paradise_, &c. The green paradise is
the 'Emerald Isle'--Ireland. This stanza refers to Thomas Moore, and
would have followed on after st. 30 in the body of the poem.

+Stanza 2,+ 1. 1. _And ever as he went he swept a lyre Of unaccustomed
shape._ 'He' has always hitherto, I think, been understood as the 'one
frail form' of st 31--i.e. Shelley himself. The lyre might be of
unaccustomed shape for the purpose of indicating that Shelley's poetry
differs very essentially, in tone and treatment, from that of other
writers. But I incline to think that Shelley, in this stanza, refers not
to himself but to Moore. Moore was termed a 'lyrist,' and here we are
told about his lyre. The latter would naturally be the Irish harp, and
therefore 'of unaccustomed shape': the concluding reference to
'ever-during green' might again glance at the 'Emerald Isle.' As to
Shelley, he was stated in st. 33 to be carrying 'a light spear': if he
was constantly sweeping a lyre as well, he must have had his hands
rather full.

1. 3. _Now like the ... of impetuous fire_, &c. Shelley compares
the strains of the lyre--the spirit of the poetry--to two things:
(1) to a conflagration in a forest; and (2) to the rustling of wind
among the trees. The former image may be understood to apply
principally to the revolutionary audacity and fervour of the ideas
expressed; the latter, to those qualities of imagination, fantasy,
beauty, and melody, which characterise the verse. Of course all
this would be more genuinely appropriate to Shelley himself than
to Moore: still it would admit of _some_ application to Moore, of
whom our poet spoke highly more than once elsewhere. The
image of a forest on fire is more fully expressed in a passage
from the _Lines written among the Euganean Hills_, composed by
him in 1818:--

'Now new fires from antique light
Spring beneath the wide world's might,--
But their spark lies dead in thee [i.e. in Padua],
Trampled out by Tyranny,
As the Norway woodman quells,
In the depths of piny dells,
One light flame among the brakes,
While the boundless forest shakes,
And its mighty trunks are torn,
By the fire thus lowly born;--
The spark beneath his feet is dead;
He starts to see the flames it fed
Howling through the darkened sky
With a myriad tongues victoriously,
And sinks down in fear;-so thou,
O Tyranny! beholdest now

Light around thee, and thou hearest
The loud flames ascend, and fearest.
Grovel on the earth! ay, hide
In the dust thy purple pride!'

+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

+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.'

1. 5. _Thunder-smoke, whose skirts were chrysolite._ Technically,
chrysolite is synonymous with the precious stone peridot, or
olivine--its tint is a yellowish green. But probably Shelley thought
only of the primary meaning of the word chrysolite, 'golden-stone,' and
his phrase as a whole comes to much the same thing as 'a cloud with a
golden lining.'

+Stanza 6,+ 1. 1. _And like a sudden meteor._ We here have a
fragmentary simile which may--or equally well may not--follow
on as connected with St. 5. See on p. 147, for whatever it may
be worth in illustration, the line relating to Coleridge:--

'A cloud-encircled meteor of the air.'

1. 5. _Pavilioned in its tent of light._ Shelley was fond of the word
Pavilion, whether as substantive or as verb. See St. 50: 'Pavilioning the
dust of him,' &c.


[1] See the _Life of Mrs. Shelley_, by Lucy Madox Rossetti (_Eminent
Women Series_), published in 1890. The connexion between the two
branches of the Shelley family is also set forth--incidentally, but with
perfect distinctness--in Collins's _Peerage of England_(1756), vol. iii.
p. 119. He says that Viscount Lumley (who died at some date towards
1670) 'married Frances, daughter of Henry Shelley, of Warminghurst in
Sussex, Esq. (a younger branch of the family seated at Michaelgrove, the
seat of the present Sir John Shelley, Bart.).'

[2] I am indebted to Mr. J. Cordy Jeaffreson for some strongly reasoned
arguments, in private-correspondence, tending to Harriet's disculpation.

[3] This line (should be '_Beneath_ the good,' &c.) is the final line of
Gray's _Progress of Poesy_. The sense in which Shelley intends to apply
it to _The Cenci_ may admit of some doubt. He seems to mean that _The
Cenci_ is not equal to really good tragedies; but still is superior to
some tragedies which have recently appeared, and which bad critics have
dubbed great.

[4] This phrase is not very clear to me. From the context ensuing, it
might seem that the 'circumstance' which prevented Keats from staying
with Shelley in Pisa was that his nerves were in so irritable a state as
to prompt him to move from place to place in Italy rather than fix in
any particular city or house.

[5] Though Shelley gave this advice, which was anything but unsound, he
is said to have taken good-naturedly some steps with a view to getting
the volume printed. Mr. John Dix, writing in 1846, says: 'He [Shelley]
went to Charles Richards, the printer in St. Martin's Lane, when quite
young, about the printing a little volume of Keats's first poems.'

[6] This statement is not correct--so far at least as the longer poems
in the volume are concerned. _Isabella_ indeed was finished by April,
1818; but _Hyperion_ was not relinquished till late in 1819, and the
_Eve of St. Agnes_ and _Lamia_ were probably not even begun till 1819.

[7] See p, 96 as to Shelley's under-rating of Keats's age. He must have
supposed that Keats was only about twenty years old at the date when
_Endymion_ was completed. The correct age was twenty-two.

[8] The passages to which Shelley refers begin thus: 'And then the
forest told it in a dream;' 'The rosy veils mantling the East;' 'Upon a
weeded rock this old man sat.'

[9] I do not find in Shelley's writings anything which distinctly
modifies this opinion. However, his biographer, Captain Medwin, avers
that Shelley valued all the poems in Keats's final volume; he cites
especially _Isabella_ and _The Eve of St. Agnes_.

[10] In books relating to Keats and Shelley the name of this gentleman
appears repeated, without any explanation of who he was. In a MS. diary
of Dr. John Polidori, Byron's travelling physician (my maternal uncle),
I find the following account of Colonel Finch, whom Polidori met in
Milan in 1816: 'Colonel Finch, an extremely pleasant, good-natured,
well-informed, clever gentleman, spoke Italian extremely well, and was
very well read in Italian literature. A ward of his gave a masquerade in
London upon her coming of age. She gave to each a character in the reign
of Queen Elizabeth to support, without the knowledge of each other; and
received them in a saloon in proper style as Queen Elizabeth. He
mentioned to me that Nelli had written a Life of Galileo, extremely
fair, which, if he had money by him, he would buy, that it might be
published. Finch is a great admirer of architecture in Italy. Mr.
Werthern, a gentleman most peaceable and quiet I ever saw, accompanying
Finch, whose only occupation [I understand this to mean the occupation
of Wethern, but possibly it means of Finch] is, when he arrives at a
town or other place, to set about sketching, and then colouring, so that
he has perhaps the most complete collection of sketches of his tour
possible. He invited me (taking me for an Italian), in case I went to
England, to see him; and, hearing I was English, he pressed me much
more,' The name 'Werthern' is not distinctly written: should it be

[11] 'Envy' refers no doubt to hostile reviewers. 'Ingratitude' refers
to a statement of Colonel Finch that Keats had 'been infamously treated
by the very persons whom his generosity had rescued from want and woe.'
It is not quite clear who were the persons alluded to by Finch. Keats's
brother George (then in America) was presumably one: he is, however,
regarded as having eventually cleared himself from the distressing
imputation. I know of no one else, unless possibly the painter Haydon
may be glanced at: as to him also the charge appears to be too severe
and sweeping.

[12] Shelley wrote another letter on 16 June--to Miss Clairmont, then in
Florence. It contains expressions to nearly the same purport. 'I have
received a most melancholy account of the last illness of poor Keats;
which I will neither tell you nor send you, for it would make you too
low-spirited. My Elegy on him is finished. I have dipped my pen in
consuming fire to chastise his destroyers; otherwise the tone of the
poem is solemn and exalted. I send it to the press here, and you will
soon have a copy.'

[13] As Byron is introduced into _Adonais_ as mourning for Keats, and as
in fact he cared for Keats hardly at all, it seems possible that his
silence was dictated by antagonism rather than by modesty.

[14] _Blackwood_ seems to imply that the _Quarterly_ accused _Endymion_
of indecency; this is not correct.

[15] The reader of Keats's preface will find that this is a
misrepresentation. Keats did not speak of any fierce hell of criticism,
nor did he ask to remain uncriticised in order that he might write more.
What he said was that a feeling critic would not fall foul of him for
hoping to write good poetry in the long run, and would be aware that
Keats's own sense of failure in _Endymion_ was as fierce a hell as he
could be chastised by.

[16] This passage of the letter had remained unpublished up to 1890. It
then appeared in Mr. Buxton Forman's volume, _Poetry and Prose by John
Keats_. Some authentic information as to Keats's change of feeling had,
however, been published before.

[17] This phrase is lumbering and not grammatical. The words 'I confess
that I am unable to refuse' would be all that the meaning requires.

[18] This seems to contradict the phrase in _Adonais_ (stanza 20)
'Nought we know dies.' Probably Shelley, in the prose passage, does not
intend 'perishes' to be accepted in the absolute sense of 'dies,' or
'ceases to have any existence;' he means that all things undergo a
process of deterioration and decay, leading on to some essential change
or transmutation. The French have the word 'dêpérir' as well as 'périr':
Shelley's 'perishes' would correspond to 'dépérit.'

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Adonais" ***

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