Adonais: Poem No. 51 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 51
Line 451-459
Here pause: These graves are all too young as yet
To have outgrown the sorrow which consigned
Its charge to each; and if the seal is set,
Here, on one fountain of a mourning mind,
Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find
Thine own well full, if thou returnest home,
Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind
Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.
What Adonais is, why fear we to become?


      Stop here on this spot. If a man who has recently buried a dear one has ceased to grieve, you need not wake up his sorrow, for after all, life is full of bitterness, and death is to be preferred to life.


      L. 451. Here pause—stop here by the side of the fresh graves. Young— fresh. LI. 452-453. To each—these graves are so recent that the persons who buried their near and dear ones in them have not as yet had time enough to overcome the sorrow with which they buried them. Consigned— gave up. Charge—the object sorrowed for. To each—to each grave.

      LI. 453-54. If the seal...mind—if one such heart has ceased to give expression to the sorrow it felt. Here, Shelley evidently has his own case in mind; his infant of three years, a lovely child much adored by him, was buried here in 1819. His grief has been stilled for the time being.

      L. 455. Break...thou—you need not break that seal; i.e., by weeping and lamenting over Adonais, you need not remind Shelley of his dear, dear loss. The reason is that death is not such a calamity as life is.

      LI. 455-456. Too surely....gall—when you go back to your home to live your day-to-day life you will certainly find that earthly life is so full of miseries and "low-thoughted cares" that your heart will be filled with bitterness. Thine own—your own heart. Gall—bitterness, disgust. Shelley here speaks from the point of view of the philosophy of life and death already propounded by him in the poem.

      LI. 457-458. From the world's...tomb—you will be bound to think that death and grave are the means of escape from the ills of life. Life is compared to a devastating storm and the grave (death) to a secure shelter from it. L. 459. What Adonais...become?—why should we fear to become what the beautiful soul of Adonais has become, viz., a portion of the Eternity; through death?

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