Mood & Feeling in The Poem Adonais

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      While reading Adonais, we go through a variety of moods and feeling and marvel at the range of emotion and thought the poet Shelley is capable of.

      Mood of Pathos through Various Means: The poem opens in a mood of pathos so appropriate for an elegy. The opening line, "I weep for Adonais, he is dead" tells us that the poem is meant to be an elegy and creates the right mood for such a poem. The poet now intensifies this feeling of grief by invoking all to weep for Adonais, who stands for Keats in this poem. The "Sad Hour" of Keats's death is personified and made a party to the mourning. The "Mighty Mother" Urania is asked where she was at the time of her son's death and is urged to shed tears through her tears will not make death— "the amorous Deep"—to "restore him to the vital air". Urania is asked to "lament anew" and a pathetic and tragic picture of John Milton—"Blind, old and lonely"—is drawn to make the pathos more intense. By projecting Keats as the "Youngest, dearest one" and "The nursling" of Urania’s "widowhood", Shelley skilfully and subtly brings out the tragedy of the bereavement of a mother. The reference to Urania's "widowhood" adds to the dimension of the tragedy The feeling of grief is then blended with a sense of horror through a ghastly portrayal of the "twilight" death-chamber where the shadow of Death "spreads apace", and corruption, along with Hunger, wait to devour the corpse.

      The atmosphere of tragedy continues through the mourning of some personified abstractions. The illusion of one of the Dreams— "Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead"—makes the tragedy more poignant. Dreams, splendor, Desires and Adorations, Persuasions, Destinies, Glooms, Phantasies, Sorrow, Sighs and Pleasure who "were his flocks" come one by one in "slow pomp" to pay their last respects to their master and a longtime associate.

      Grief Universalised: Shelley now gives a touch of universality to the pathos by making Nature participate in the mourning. Grief has made "the Young Spring wild" and throw down "her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were". Hyacinth and Narcissus, too, feel the pangs of agony. The grief of England can reduce into pale insignificance that of a nightingale over the death of her mate, and that of an eagle mourning "her empty nest". For a moment Shelley assumes the mood of anger and curses the reviewer whose irresponsible criticism has ended Keats's life:

The curse of Cain
Light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast,
And scared the angel soul that was its earthly guest.

      But grief returns at once with the description of the return of Spring:

Ah! woe is me! Winter is come and gone,
But grief returns with the revolving year.

      Contemplation of the fact that the beauty of spring keeps returning in a cyclic order but that Keats will never come back makes Shelley philosophical:

Woe is me!
Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene
The actors or spectators?

      These are questions that have troubled the human mind for ages, and, put forth in the context of Keats's death, they leave the readers in a contemplative mood once again.

      The readers are then quickly brought back to the main stream of the poem with the repeated assertion, "He will awake no more." The description of Urania:

She rose like an autumnal Night, that springs
Out of east, and follows wild and drear
The golden Day.....

      and her journey:

Through camps and cities rough with stone, and steel And human hearts, which to her aery tread
Yielding not, wounded the invisible
Palms of her tender feet where'er they feel.....

      have added sublimity to the pathos, and, at the same time, have brought Urania, the Goddess, down to the level of an earthly creature to make her tragedy more poignant and more comprehensible to the human mind.

      Alternation of Anger and Grief: During the narration of Urania's lamentation, the poet regains the feeling of anger arid contempt for the reviewers. He calls them "herded wolves", "obscene ravens" and "vultures", who "fled" when Byron launched a savage attack on them through a satirical poem.

      Then follows the mourning by human mourners which restores once again the feeling of grief and pity. Byron, "The pilgrim of Eternity," Thomas Moore, and "others of less note" including Shelley himself, arrive one by one to mourn the death of a fellow poet. Shelley's portrayal of his own sufferings has helped to make the feeling of sorrow more intense.

      Pity and grief are soon replaced by hatred and anger. The poet remembers that Keats "has drunk poison" and savagely attacks the reviewer who has administered the "poison". The reviewer is a "deaf and viperous murderer", "the nameless worm" and a "note-less blot on a remembered name". This reviewer will live only to be overtaken by a feeling of "remorse and self-contempt" some day.

      Mood of Exultation and Hope: Then there is a sudden transformation of mood. Grief and anger disappear giving way to an exalted expression of hope. The poet declares that there is no reason for mourning Keats's death. Keats is now left in the company of "the enduring dead" and has become a "portion of the Eternal". Keats "is not dead". He has simply ended his useless mortal life which is nothing but a dream and has awakened into the eternal and true world. He has now reached a height where envy, calumny; hate and pain cannot touch and torture him. His supremacy over death is asserted:

He lives, he wakes, 'tis Death is dead, not he.

      The mood of hope and joy continues with the expression of Shelley's pantheistic philosophy:

He is made one with Nature: here is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the night's sweet bird.

      Keats has now become "a portion of the loveliness/Which once he made more lovely" and has played

His part, while the one Spirit's plastic stress
Sweeps through the dull dense world, compelling there
All new successions to the forms they wear.

      Such ideas as these dismiss the horrors of death and inspire hope and confidence among the readers.

      The same mood prevails through the rest of the poem. Great poets are like "Stars” and death is a "Low mist" which cannot blot out the brightness of those stars. Keats is received and accepted as their king by poets dwelling in their celestial abode and this establishes the fact that a great poet is certain to earn recognition. Hope reaches its climax in the idea that death is not to be feared because only it can open for us the door to eternity:

Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass
Stains the white radiance of Eternity
Until Death tramples it to fragments.

      Philosophical Ending: In the final stanza Shelley turns philosophical once again and begins to contemplate his own death. He now wishes to prepare himself for his final journey to Eternity where he will be united with Keats, his departed friend. The note of exultation that marks the earlier Stanzas is somewhat subdued here.

      Conclusion: Thus we find that Adonais is a record of a variety of mood and feeling. This swift and subtle passage from one mood to another reflects the variety of thoughts and ideas of the poet and, at the same time, eliminates any possibility of monotony for the readers. Also, it demands of the reader a receptive, alert and flexible mind to be able to enjoy and appreciate the poem.

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