Adonais: Poem No. 37 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 37
Line 325-333
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
To spill the venom which 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.

Summary

      May the cursed critics live on his disgraceful life. Let his chief punishment be a consciousness of his own guilt. Let him spill more poison whenever he thinks fit and let remorse and self-contempt bum his secret soul.

Explanation

      L. 325. Live thou—live on, you viperous critic. Infamy—notoriety; ill-name. Whose...fame—you vile critic who can never buy fame by such notoriety; i.e., such vile attacks. L. 326. Fear no...me—do not fear any punishment from me which can be greater than your own consciousness of what a wicked rogue you are. L. 327. Noteless.—Unrem numbered; the more so, because anonymous. Blot—stain. Remembered nameimmortal name of Keats. The critic, now associated with the death of Keats, will in future be an unremembered stain upon the immortal name of the poet. L. 328. But be thy self...be—this is the punishment proposed by Shelley—let the critic feel and understand the extent of his guilt; his guilty conscience will be his greatest torture. L. 329. At thy season—at your proper season, in subsequent numbers of the Quarterly in which you will write (like a serpent filling his poison-bag periodically). Be thou free to be at liberty.

      L. 330. To spill...o'erflow—to eject your malice on somebody as a serpent, whose teeth-sack becomes full of poison periodically; stings somebody. Which: Another reading is 'when'. L. 331. Remorse—i.e., sense of your guilt. Shall...thee—will pursue you (as the furies pursue a wrong-doer, according to Greek myths). L. 332. Hot shame...brow—sense of burning shame will scorch your forehead from within. This will be your adequate punishment. L. 333. As now—as (Shelley thinks) the critic has already begun to tremble in his conscience.

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