Adonais: Poem No. 54 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 54
Line 478-486
That Light whose smile kindles the Universe,
That Beauty in which all things work and move,
That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse
Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love
Which, through the web of being blindly wove
By man and beast and earth and air and sea,
Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of
The fire for which all thirst; now beams on me,
Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality


      The light of the Eternal Spirit, which as Beauty and benediction, illumines all objects of the world, shines on the poet in all its glory and burns the last remains of his mortal nature and etherealizes him.


      L. 478. That Light....Universe—the universal soul which sustains and animates the universe is here conceived as Light, because its animating principle (smile) inspires all objects with life and with the light that is inseparable from life. L. 479. That Beauty...wove—that Universal Soul is otherwise conceived as the Spirt of Beauty which gives loveliness of shape, form, colour, odour, etc., to the objects of the phenomenal world.

      L. 480. Benediction—blessing. Wordsworth calls the Soul of Nature, "Wisdom and Spirit of the Universe." The Universal Soul is again conceived as the Spirit of Joy. It is the source of the "High instincts before which our moral nature did tremble as a guilty thing surprised," as Wordsworth puts it in the Immortality Ode. L. 480-481. Which the...quench not—this spirit of joy which animates the soul cannot be totally suppressed even by the soul's entering the gross, fleshly body at human birth. Birth 'is a sleep and forgetting', of the soul's instinctive joys—hence a curse. Eclipsing—dulling. Sustaining—animating. Quench—totally suppress.

      L. 482-483. Which through...sea—which enters into the composition (web) of all beings—all created objects, animate and inanimate, though they do not know its exact nature and power. Elsewhere Shelley writes:

Nothing in this world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle.—Love's Philosophy.

      L. 484-485. Burns bright...all thirst—the love that animates the souls of all things is strong or weak in accordance with the thing's constitution, in keeping with their different capacities, catch the reflection of the Ideal Love which all souls seek, though unconsciously to have in full. Mirrors—reflections, imperfect shadows. Fire—ideal Love which burns like fire in the world of Essence. The idea has occurred in Line 381-387. See notes. L. 485 Now beams on me—The Light (L. 478.) shines on me in its full glory.

      L. 486. Consuming...mortality—burning away the last remnants of my mortal nature. The Light is conceived as a fire or lightning. My mortal nature, body and senses—is almost annihilated and I am almost become an immortal soul. Cf. Tintern Abbey:

We are laid asleep
In body and become a living soul.

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