Adonais: Poem No. 45 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 45
Line 397-405
The inheritors of unfulfilled renown
Rose from their thrones, built beyond mortal thought,
Far in the Unapparent. Chatterton
Rose pale,—his solemn agony had not
Yet faded from him; Sidney; as he fought,
And as he fell and as he lived and loved
Sublimely mild, a spirit without spot,
Arose; and Lucan, by his death approved:
Oblivion as they rose shrank like a thing reproved.


       The souls of young poets who died early in life, but are destined to eternal fame welcomed Adonais in the region which we cannot conceive with our senses. They rose from their appointed places and received him. Among them were Chatterton, Sidney and Lucan.)


      L. 397: The inheritors....renown—those poets who died young without attaining in their life-time their deserved fame, which, however; they attained after their death. L. 398. Rose....thrones—Shelley imagines that the souls of these young poets are now the presiding deities (kings) of the various celestial bodies in the infinite space. L. 398. Built beyond...thought—the regions over which they now preside pass the comprehension of the imagination of man.

      LI. 397-399. The inheritors of....the Unapparent. Adonais has passed through death to a life of immortality: he is now become a portion of the Universal Mind and is coextensive with the Infinity. As such, his soul, now freed from the gross material body and passing beyond the limitations of the senses, has risen up to the region where youthful poets have gone before him. They lived for too short a time on earth to attain their deserved fame but they have ultimately attained it after their death. These youthful poets (that is, their souls) are now reigning supreme in some celestial spheres assigned to them; they are like their thrones in a region, of which mortal men with their limited senses and poor imagination cannot even conceive.

      L. 399. Unapparent—the region in infinite space is not apparent (clear perceptible) to the poor limited senses of man, or even his imagination. L. 399. Chatterton—Thomas Chatterton, English poet (1752-1770) who committed suicide at the age of eighteen only. To him Keats had dedicated his Endymion. Chatterton was a precocious romantic genius. He published his Rowley Poems (1764-68) really written by himself, but passed on the reading public as transcripts from manuscripts of one Rowley a thirteenth-century priest of St. Mary's Church in Bristol. But the deception was discovered by scholars, chiefly by Gray Chatterton came to London, but imable to make a living there killed himself. Wordsworth speaks of him as "the marvelous boy who perished in his pride."

      L. 400. Pale—because his soul had retained the memory of earthly sorrows, privations and starvation. Solemn agony— deep tragedy of earthly life.

      LI. 401-404. Sidney; as he fought....death approved. As the soul of Adonais passed into the infinity beyond human conception, souls of young poets who died like him early in life and were destined to immortal fame after their death rose up from their respective thrones in the unseen, everlasting world of beauty; and welcomed their new comrade. Among these were three poets who had affinity to Adonais by their lofty spirits, pure lives and undying fame.

      L. 401. Sidney—Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), scholar, courtier, statesman, poet, gallant warrior, died at the age of thirty-two only; in the siege of Zutphen in the Netherlands. He wrote a short masque the earliest prose romance Arcadia, and a series of sonnets addressed to his beloved Penelope Devereaux under the title of Astrophel to Stella. Besides, he was capable of the warmest friendship, of the most tender affection and chivalry. When on the point of death, he gave a cup of water brought for him to a wounded soldier saying, "Thy necessity is greater than mine". Fought—died in a gallant fight in the siege of Zutphen with the memorable words quoted above.

      L. 402. Lived—i.e., in the most chivalric manner. Loved—thought about his beloved Penelope, as in his immortal sonnets. L. 403. A—his spirit now in the spiritual region is as pure and lofty as his life was on earth.

      L. 404. Arose—rose from his throne to welcome Adonais. Lucan—a Roman poet and stoic philosopher (30-65 A.D.) who died by his own hands at the age of twenty-six only He was the author of Pharsalia, a poem on the war between Caesar and Pompey Lucan was at first a favorite of the Roman emperor Nero, but later incurred his jealousy as a poet. Lucan joined in a plot to murder Nero, but the plot being discovered, he turned approver; but that did not save his life; he was condemned to die by his own hands. He caused his vein to be opened and expired while reciting some of his own verses. Shelley has exaggerated notions about the worth of Pharsalia, though in the Defence of Poesy he placed Lucan among the 'mock-birds'. By his death approved—atoned for the shame of betraying his friends by a noble, fearless death.

      L. 405. Oblivion—forgetfulness. Shrank—fled. Like...reproved—like a guilty offensive spirit chastised by a noble spirit—like a "guilty thing surprised." The sense of the line is—As these immortal young poets rose to receive Adonais among them, Adonais went beyond all chance of being forgotten. He joined the happy company of immortals.

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