Adonais: Poem No. 4 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 4
Line 28-36
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,
Trampled and mocked with many a loathed rite
Of lust and blood. He went, unterrified,
Into the gulf of death; but his clear spirit
Yet reigns o'er earth, the third among the sons of light.


      Urania is asked to mourn again in the manner she had mourned her son Milton, the writer of great epic poetry. He was a blind, old, lonely man when his country's glory was trampled under foot by the Royalists and clergymen, he died defying them. His pure spirit now reigns over the earth, he being recognized as the third among the greatest poets.)


      L. 28. Most...mourners — i.e., Urania; she being the incarnation of the spirit of poetry Weep again—mourn again: 'again' because she had once mourned the death of Milton. L. 29. He died—(he references is to Milton (1608-1674). L. 30. Sire—father, originator. Sire strain—first great English writer of epical poetry which he has immortalized. 'Sire' is used in the sense that he began a tradition which was imitated by later English writers. Keats himself wrote his Hyperion in Miltonic manner. L. 31. Blind, old, and lonely—Milton died in 1674, at the old age of 66, having been blind for 22 years; in his blind, old age he was 'lonely' because his friends of the Commonwealth period were all dead or killed when Charles II (in 1660) came back to reign. His daughters, too, cared very little for him. He lamented through the mouth of Samson that he was "always in the power of others, not his own." When his country's pride—i.e., after the Restoration when the independent spirit of the Commonwealth period (1649-59)—subject to 'trampled' in L. 33. L. 32. The priest—i.e., the Anglican church, which Milton's Puritanism condemned so much. The slave—the Royalists who were slaves to the King and France. Liberticide—murderer of English liberty; Charles II. L. 33. Trampled—crushed under foot. Mocked...blood—insulted with many hateful practices of lust and murder. Milton himself was threatened with capture and execution. Charles II's court was the most immoral. These Royalists were "sons of Belial blown with insolence and wine," in Milton's own words.

      L. 35. He...went death—he met his death-defying all the threats of men and fortune—"on evil days though fallen and evil tongues. Clear spirit—pure lofty soul. Shelley here uses Milton's own phrase in Lycidas "Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise." Milton's "soul was like a star and dwelt apart, pure as the naked heavens," wrote Wordsworth.

      L. 36.—yet exercises its influence on the earth. The third...light—third in order among the epic poets of the world—Homer and Dante being first and second respectively. In his prose Defence of Poesy, Shelley says: "Homer was the first and Dante the second epic poet... Milton was the third epic poet." Some take the line to refer to Homer, Shakespeare and Milton. Sons of light—poets inspired with celestial vision. Evidently Shelley is thinking here of the epic poets only.

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