Adonais: Poem No. 35 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 35
Line 307-315
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?
If it be he who, gentlest of the wise,
Taught, soothed, loved, honored, the departed one,
Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs,
The silence of that heart's accepted sacrifice.

Summary

      Another figure (that of Leigh Hunt) cast itself athwart the death-bed of Adonais in silent agony of grief, like a monumental stone. It was he who taught, soothed and loved Adonais while he lived.

Explanation

      L. 307. Softer voice—mourning less plaintive than that of other poets, but all the more heart-felt. Hushed...dead—silenced out of extreme sorrow for the dead. The reference is to Leigh Hunt (1784-1859.) who first encouraged Keats to write poetry and whom Keats imitated in his early poems. Shelley had a greater admiration for Leigh Hunt as a poet than he deserved. But the passage which follows seems to refer to one who was actually present by him in his last hours. Here many take the reference to be to Severn, a young artist-friend of Keats, who accompanied him to Italy and nursed him. Some others take the reference to be to Cowden Clarke to whom Keats once wrote, "Vou first taught me all the sweets of song". It was he who had given Keats a copy of Spenser's Faerie Queene and opened the gates of poetry which enraptured him.

      L. 308. Athwart—across. Athwart...drawn—Leigh Him is imagined as covering his face in the folds of his shepherd's mantle in deep sorrow. L. 309. Leans sadly...death-bed—reclines in great grief against the death-bed of Adonais. L. 310. In mockery...stone—the reclining figure seems to be a silent stone statue raised in memory of Adonais. L. 311. The heavy...moan—the bosom of Leigh Hunt being so full of grief rises and falls, but he does not utter any words of sorrow. L. 312. Gentlest of the wise—most affectionate of wise poets. L. 313, Taught—Hunt encouraged Keats to write poetry and Keats took Hunt as his earliest model. Hence the Quarterly bracketed him with Hunt in the 'Cockney school'. Soothed—comforted, specially when” Keats lost his brother Tom. L. 314. With...sighs—i.e., with any lamentation in poor, articulate verse which jars upon the sacred silence of Leigh Hunt's woeful heart. L. 315. That....sacrifice—the tribute of silent but heart-felt grief which is certainly accepted by Adonais' spirit.

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