Adonais: Poem No. 38 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 38
Line 334-342
Nor let us weep that our delight is fled
Far from these carrion-kites that scream below;
He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead,
Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now
Dust to the dust: but the pure spirit shall flow
Back to the burning fountain whence it came,
A portion of the Eternal, which must glow
Through time and change, unquenchably the same,
Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame.

Summary

      None need lament that Adonais had to die to escape the clutches of these vile critics. He is now one of the immortal dead. His body will be reduced to dust; but his soul has returned to the Eternal, which continues changeless through all times.

Explanation

      L. 334. Our delight—Adonais in whom we delighted so much. L. 335. Carrion-kites—kites who feed on rotten flesh, that is, the malicious reviewers, whom Shelley has called 'ravens' and 'vultures'. Scream below—i.e., carry on their-nefarious work of criticism on earth.

      L. 336. He wakes...dead—Adonais (Keats) has joined the dead poets whose works make them immortal on earth and who have immortab lives in regions above the earth—''doublelived in regions new" as Keats said. By joining the dead, he may be said to have gone to eternal sleep, because our ''little lives are rounded with a sleep," or he may be said to wake up from the sleep of life, our earthly life being "but a sleep and a forgetting." Enduring—eternal.

      L. 337. Thou....soar— you (the vile critic) cannot rise up. Where...now—where Adonais is now gone—to the Infinity and the Eternal. In a letter addressed to the Editor of the Quarterly which in its April 1819 number attacked Shelley's Revolt of Islam, Shelley wrote: "I am not in the habit of permitting myself to be disturbed by what is said or written of me...But feel, in-respect to the writing in question, that I am there sitting where he durst not soar."

      L. 338. Dust to dust—the earthly body of Adonais (Keats) will be reduced to dust in the grave. Pure spirit—(his) soul free of all impurity of matter. LI. 338-39. Shall flow back—shall return and be made one with. L. 339. Burning fountain....came—Eternity 'the One,' the primal Spirit, luminous and full of living energy out of which the human soul comes and to which it goes back. L. 340. A portion...Eternal—the soul will be merged into the Eternal Soul.

      LI. 340-341. Which must....change—the Eternal is living Energy; and so the soul of Keats now being a portion of it will shine forever through all changes of time L. 341. Unquenchably—undiminished in its glory. L. 342. Whilst thy...shame—while you (the critic) having no divine spark in your soul will, when you die, be only a mass of cold ashes, (i.e., dead matter of the body) which will fill the dull grave. Your soul will be annihilated, and all that will remain of you will be your body reduced to a heap of earth. Sordid—well, miserable. Hearth of shame—grave which is a cold, extinguished hearth or hollow to receive your body (like cold ashes).

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