Adonais: Poem No. 11 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 11
Line 91-99
One from a lucid urn of starry dew
Washed his light limbs, as if embalming them;
Another clipped her profuse locks, and threw
The wreath upon him, like an anadem
Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem;
Another in her wilful grief would break
Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem
A greater loss with one which was more weak,—
And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek.


      Another dream washed the limbs of Adonais with silvery dew, and a third cut off her locks and threw them over Adonais like a wreath. A fourth broke her bow and arrows.


      L. 91. One—one of the Dreams. Lucid urn—a vessel so transparent as to show the liquid within. Of starry dew—containing dew shed by the stars— hence clear; pure and silvery; Shelley was more at home in the regions of the stars and Clouds than of this earth—"the sphere of our sorrow." L. 92. As if embalming them—as if trying to preserve the dead body from decaying by applying fragrant balm. Another clipped...locks—another Dream cut off her loose, scattered hair. L. 94. Wreath—the mass of golden, curling hair was like a wreath, i.e., string of flowers. Anadem—circlet, wreath of flowers.

      L. 95. Which frozen...begem—whereas ordinary wreaths of flowers are ornamented with pearls, this wreath of golden hair was ornamented with the teardrops of the Dream, congealed into bright, sparkling gem-like beads.

      L. 96. Wilful—obstinate, unrestrained. L. 97. Winged reeds—arrows made of reed stems, and "winged" because of its speed. Stem—oppose. As if...weak—she broke her bow and arrow as if to deaden her bitter sorrow for the death of Adonais by madly taking upon herself the lesser pain of losing her favorite weapons.

      L. 99. Dull—make dull, blunt, Barbed fire—barbed arrow-point as keen as fire. Frozen—old. Dull the...cheek—seeing no more use for her arrow, she in desperate sorrow blunts its sharp, fire-tipped end by nabbing it against the cold, inert cheek of Adonais. Bion has: "Another (Love) hath broken his own feathered quiver." The change effected by Shelley speaks of his subtle, metaphysical imagination.

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