Adonais: Poem No. 47 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 47
Line 415-423
Who mourns for Adonais? Oh, come forth,
Fond wretch, and know thyself and him aright.
Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous Earth;
As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light
Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might
Satiate the void circumference: then shrink
Even to a point within our day and night;
And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink,
When hope has kindled hope, and lured thee to the brink.


      He who is inclined to mourn for Adonais should first realize the infinity of space that stretches out on the sides and realize in contrast the insignificance of earthly life. Adonais is now made one with this infinity and so none should lament for his escape from the finite.


      L. 415. Who....Adonais?—who is there so foolish and narrow-viewed as to lament for Adonais? Let him understand the vast difference between the infinite which Adonais now embraces, and the finite which we call life. Come forth—come out. Let your poor soul expand itself. L. 416. Fond wretch—, you foolish, ignorant man! Know...aright—understand the difference between the infinity which he is now and the finite which you are. L. 417. Clasp—embrace. Panting soul—soul exhausted with furious effort. Pendulous—hanging in space. Clasp with...Earth—try to realize the infinity in this manner; first exert your mind to its utmost capacity to grasp the immensity of the earth which is hanging in the infinite space. L. 418. As from a center—taking this earth as the starting point. Dart—radiate, spread. Spirit's light—light of your soul, i.e., your mind's power of comprehension. L. 419.—so as to have a conception of the infinite space which spreads beyond the planets and the stars. Its spacious might—the fully expanded power of your mind. L. 420. Satiate—fill. Void circumference—empty space of ether which spreads infinitely generally spoken of as an empty circle. (But what is 'infinite' space is neither a circle, nor any conceivable thing.)

      LI. 418-420. The idea in these lines is this: After you have expanded your mind to grasp the vastness of this our earth, take the earth (a mere pin-point in space) as the center and further expand your mind to pass beyond the created universe and reach the infinity; making your mind put forth all its power so as to have an idea of the infinite space of ether. L. 420. Shrink—withdraw your mind.

      L. 421. Even to...night—ven to the pin-point of time and space, which we call our life—a poor succession of a few days and nights. Then shrink...night—after grasping the idea of infinity withdraw your mind again to the narrow limits of time and space which we call life and realize the contrast. Shelley means to say that by realizing this contrast you will appreciate how vast is the soul of Adonais become, being merged in the infinity; how small and poor earthy life is. Realizing this, you will cease to mourn for him.

      LI. 422-423. In these lines, Shelley simply warns the man not to lose himself altogether in consequence of the despair at the littleness of human existence. Keep...light—do not lose control over your mind—do not despair. Sink—collapse.

      L. 423. When hope...hope—when by gradually expanding your mind to catch an idea of the infinity—from the earth to the worlds, from the worlds to the space beyond from the space beyond to the infinity Lured—tempted, i.e, brought Brink—border, end; very limit of the power of your thought. The conception of the infinity, when your mind has reached it, may make your mind collapse into a total incapacity by its very magnitude. In other words, a glimpse into the mystery of life beyond death may tempt you to end your life (as Shelley was often tempted; once he sat tight underwater in order to die and solve the mystery of life.)

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