Adonais: Poem No. 55 - Summary & Analysis

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Stanza 55
Line 487-495
The breath whose might I have invoked in song
Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven,
Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng
Whose sails were never to the tempest given;
The massy earth and sphered skies are riven!
I am borne darkly, fearfully afar;
Whilst, burning through the inmost veil of Heaven,
The soul of Adonais, like a star,
Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.


      Shelley feels that the spirit of the Universe has taken possession of his soul and he is being taken away from the world and its crowd of ordinary, uninspired men to the Infinite, while the soul of Adonais is beckoning him from the region of the immortals.


      L. 487. Breath—spirit, the Universal Spirit of Love, Beauty. songs—whose power I have roused by my poetry. That Spirit's nature, function' etc., have been treated in this poem and so its power has worked on the poet's soul. L. 488. Descends on me—takes full possession of my soul. My soul is etherealized in contact with the Universal Soul, my body and senses consumed by its fire like light (see LI. 484-485). My....driven—my soul is journeying through Eternity

      L. 489. Far...shore—far from the limits of the material world. The world is compared to a land and the infinity to the sea, and the poets. soul to a boat leaving the world. Cf:

Let there be no meaning of the bar
When I put out to sea.—Tennyson.

      L. 489. Far....throng—far away from the crowds of ordinary men who tremble at the thought of death. L. 490. Whose sails...given—whose barks had never set out on an adventurous spiritual journey on the sea of eternity i.e., I am leaving the world and its men far behind and below; these men have never felt in their souls the call of the Infinity and tremble to leave the familiar world on the adventure of the soul in the spiritual world.

      L. 491. Massy earth-gross, material world. Sphered skies—skies with the stars and the planets. Are riven—are cut open. Shelley imagines that the limits of the earth are transcended by his soul and that the skies open before his soul to give it a passage into the Eternity which extends above. L. 492. Darkly— mysteriously, without a clear idea as to how and where I am borne. Fearfully, afar—i.e., so far, so unimaginably far as to have a thrilling sensation of mystery in the soul, almost akin to fear.

      LI. 492-495. I am borne....Eternal are. Shelley closes his elegy Adonais, with a magnificent outburst of spiritual longing to leave off his coils and join in his soul, the soul of Adonais in the Infinity. Shelley feels that the light of the Universal Spirit shines on his soul and dispels the gloom of his mortal nature, leaving him an unburdened soul. He imagines that his soul has begun its journey through the infinite space and is flying forward mysteriously; experiencing thrills of adventure with a sort of pleasant fear. As he is being borne far, far away; he sees the soul of Adonais burning like a bright star through the immense space which divides the earth and the region of the immortal spirits; all the while the star-like soul of Adonais glitters like a beacon-light from the region where dwell those who have passed into Eternity.

      L. 493. Burning—shining. Inmost..."Heaven—the deepest, most distant space of the infinity; i.e., the deepest mystery of space which separates life on earth from the life in Eternity. L. 495. Beacons—serves as a signal light to guide me. From the....eternal are—from the mysterious region where those who have passed into the eternal life exist.

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