Adonais: Poem No. 33 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 33
Line 289-297
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;
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.


      The head of the frail form (Shelley) was bound with strings of pansy and violet flowers. He had in his hand a light spear with a cypress fruit at the top, and it was wound round with ivy It shook in his hand as his heart beat violently. He stood alone and apart.


      L. 289. His head was bound Tuith—his head wore, in the fashion of shepherds, a string of flowers. Pansies—flowers, also called heartsease. Pansies symbolize 'thought' or 'memory'. "There is pansies, that's for thought's"— Hamlet, Pansies overblown—the pansies are 'over-blown' in the sense that Shelley's head was full of thoughts which were nurtured there for long. L. 290. Violets—violets symbolize 'Past sweetness'. Violets are of various colors. Pied—parti-colored.

      L. 291. Light spear—spear ('crook' of later Christian conception) was the shepherd's weapon to fight with beasts. Here it symbolizes the force of emotional poetry lopped...cone—having a cone or fruit of cypress. Cypress is associated with mourning. It was planted in classical graveyards. The spear in his hand was something like the Thyrsus or wand borne in the hand of a worshipper of Bacchus, classical god of wine, who represented the intoxicating power of nature.

      L. 292. Round....shaft—round the rough handle of the spear. Dark—deep-green. Ivy-tresses—leaves and tendrils of ivy plants. Ivy symbolizes 'poetic inspiration', the intoxicating power of poetic delights, ivy being sacred to Bacchus. Grew—i.e., seemed to grow, the ivy being yet fresh and green. L. 293. Yet...dew—the ivy was dropping dew, being gathered fresh from the deep, thick wood in which dew does not dry up even at noon-time. L. 294. Vibrated—the spear shook in his hand, because his hand was trembling with the emotion of his heart. Everbearing heart—heart which always palpitated briskly; here Shelley signifies his emotional nature, the intensity of feelings making his heart beat quick at all times and not for this mourning occasion only. L. 295 Of that crew—among the poets, who come to mourn Adonais. L. 296. Neglected and apart—he stood apart from the rest, being neglected by others. Shelley always considered himself abandoned and miserable. Cf:

"Smiling they live and call life pleasure;
To me that cup has been dealt in another measure."—Near Naples.

      L. 297. A herd-abandoned...dart—figurative for 'a poor fellow abandoned by even his fellow-poets and slandered by the world.'

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