Adonais: Poem No. 5 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 5
Line 37-45
Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
Not all to the bright station dared to climb;
And happier thy their happiness who knew,
Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time
In which suns perished. Others more sublime,
Struck by the envious wrath of man or god, Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime;
And some yet live, treading the thorny road Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode.


      Few poets dared to aspire and rise so high as Milton. There are some lesser poets who are happy to secure fame and have been known when far greater poets than they have been forgotten. Some others, more sublime, were cut off from their lofty inspiration in the prime of their lives. Some who are now alive are making their way to fame through thorny paths of hostile criticism.


      L. 38. not all....climb—not all poets have ventured to rise to the lofty ideal of poetic achievement which Millon set before himself and attained. He, who would write good poetry, wrote Milton, "must make himself a true poem"; he aspired to tell, and told of things "invisible to mortal sight; and he said he would "leave something behind which men will not willingly let die." His lofty station, i.e., high poetic achievement, is in keeping with these "lofty" aspirations.

      L. 39. Happier they....who knew—happier than Milton are these lesser poets who, though they never aimed at or achieved such great poetry; were fortunate enough to secure a measure of fame in their life-time by their inferior poetry (their 'happiness' being the knowledge in their lifetime that they were appreciated by men) L. 40. Tapers—candles, standing for mediocre poetry. Night of time—darkness of forgetfulness. L. 41. Suns—poets of the highest genius. Perished—were forgotten. Whose tapers yet...perished— whose (i.e., the minor poet's) small poetry is still remembered by the world while the very highest poetry of far greater geniuses has been forgotten. Others more sublime—some other poets who have written nobler poetry than these famous minor poets. L. 42. Struck—struck down, destroyed. By the envious....god—either by the jealous, captious criticism or angry malice of men or by the cruel dispensation of the gods. L. 43. Have sunk—have been lost. Extinct—dead. Refulgent glorious. Prime—youthful part of life. L. 44. Some yet life—some other poets like Shelley himself, Byron, Hunt (of whom Shelley had a high opinion) are now alive. Treading...road—suffering malicious criticism, indifference and slight of contemporaries.

      L. 45. Through....hate—through the efforts of the poets themselves and the hatred of their contemporaries. Fame's...abode—temple of fame where there is calm and peace; i.e., to fame and appreciation in future times.

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