Nature Elements: in The Poem Adonais

Also Read

Treatment of Nature in Adonais

      Shelley's Attitude towards Nature: Shelley, like other Romantic poets, looks upon Nature as an infinite source of inspiration as well as an object of love and admiration. He does not use Nature to preach moral lessons, as Wordsworth so often does. He is impressed, though not content with, the external beauties of Nature and can extract rapturous joy out of them. His love for the light and color paints his pictures of Nature bright and colorful like a painter's. Deprived of a true human companionship Shelley often turns to Nature, to every aspect of which he attaches a 'soul', for that companionship which relieves him of the feeling of loneliness he suffers in the human society. His admiration for Nature is best expressed in his essay On Love, "There is eloquence in the tongueless wind and a melody in the flowing brooks and the rumbling of the reeds beside them, which by their inconceivable relation to something within the soul awakens the spirit to a dance of breathless rapture and brings tears of mysterious tenderness to the eyes, like the enthusiasm of patriotic success, or the voice of one beloved singing to you alone."

      Nature Images in 'Adonais': Adonais, like all other poems of Shelley amply illustrates the intimate kinship between the poet and Nature. In Adonais, images drawn from Nature are found in abundance. The young Spring, made "wild” with grief, throws down "her kindling buds as if she Autumn were." Hyacinth and Narcissus are saddened with the loss of their dear poet. The grief of England over the loss of Keats, her beloved son, casts into pale insignificance the grief of a nightingale over the death of her mate and that of an eagle mourning "her empty nest." The imagery is particularly rich in the Stanzas depicting the advent of Spring:

The airs and streams renew their joyous tone,
The ants, the bees, the swallows reappear,
Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead season's bier,
The amorous birds now pair in every brake,
And build their mossy homes in field and brere,
And the green lizard, and the golden snake,
Like unimprisoned flames, out of their trance awake.

      The images in these Stanzas are all concrete and they present, with great success, the mood of unruptured joy associated with the season. Apt use of images, drawn from Nature or any other source, has always been Shelley's strong point; Adonais is no exception.

      Utilitarian Aspects of Nature: Shelley considers Nature a true companion that can offer solace to a suffering human heart. He often personifies the objects of Nature and talks and listens to them. In Adonais, Nature comes forward to share the poet's agony over the premature death of Keats:

.....Morning sought
Her eastern watch-tower and her hair unbound,
Wet with the tears which should adorn the ground,
Dimmed the aerial eyes that kindle day,
Afar the melancholy thunder moaned,
Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay;
And the wild Winds, flew round, sobbing in their dismay

      Then follows a description of Echo who "sits amid the voiceless mountains" remembering the "lay" of the dead poet, and of Spring, made "wild" with grief, and behaving like Autumn. Hyacinth and Narcissus, too, feel the pangs of agony over the poet's death "with dew all turned to tears, odor, to sighing ruth."

      Symbolism: Shelley; like every other great poet, is constantly on the look out for symbols to give concrete shape to his abstract thoughts and emotions. The vastness of Nature provides him with an unending source of such symbols. In Adonais, "pansies" have been used to symbolize the fate of his poetry, and "violets" stand for his modesty and innocence. Objects of Nature like sky; stars, sun, moon, wind and river often stand for eternity in Shelley's poetry In Adonais, too, we find such a reference to the immortality of stars:

The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn,
He sets, and each ephemeral insect then
Is gathered into death without a dawn.
And the immortal stars awake again.

      Philosophy of Nature: Shelley like Wordsworth, differs from the Christian theology which places God outside. His creation and, as such, deprives Nature of spiritual life. Both poets are intensely aware of the existence of life in every aspect of Nature. Shelley is very often pantheistic in his treatment of Nature in that he seems to believe that every aspect of Nature is only a manifestation of one indivisible soul or spirit and that after the end of the earthly existence everything is reunited with’ that one soul. In Adonais, Keats, after his death, thus becomes:

.....a portion of the loveliness
Which once he made more lovely: he doth bear
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.

      At the same time, Shelley; like Plato, also believes that all things in Nature have within and above them a spiritual dimension, or a 'soul’. Thus we find that Shelley; out of his love for every aspect of Nature, has blended Platonism and Pantheism in his treatment of Nature. To Shelley, the spirit of Nature is essentially the spirit of Love which is the central principle that keeps united all life in the universe. Nature, which mourns the death of Keats so intensely is prompted by this very spirit of Love.

      Nature Myths: Another aspect of Shelley's nature poetry, as evident in Adonais, is his myth-making power. His capacity to feel Nature and its phenomena is the source of this power. He can detach himself from the past and the present and go on creating fresh and new nature myths at will. Adonais is full of such myths, that is, personifications of Nature. Morning, thunder, ocean, winds, echo, spring and other aspects of Nature have been personified and made to mourn the death of Keats to establish the bond of Love that united Nature with mankind.

      Vagueness in Description of Nature: Shelley's fondness for the indefinite at times leads him away from the realistic details of Nature. In those moments of inspiration, Nature, for Shelley assumes an ethereal character and turns hazy and incomprehensible. "Even in his descriptive passages, the dream-character of the scenery is notorious: it is not the clear recognizable scenery of Wordsworth, but a landscape that hovers athwart the heat and haze arising from his crackling fantasies. The materials for such visionary Edens have evidently been accumulated from direct experience, but they are composed by him into such scenes as never mortal eye beheld. In Adonais, a Dream 'faded’ like a cloud which had outwept its rain, and another splendor alighted on Keats's mouth, died, and a dying meteor stains a wreath
Of moonlight vapor; which the cold night clips,
If flushed through his pale limbs, and passed to its eclipse.

      Such uncanny get-together and mixture of images after images have taken Adonais, in many places, beyond ordinary comprehension." Accuracy of Observation of Nature: In spite of the occasional vagueness in his description of Nature, Shelley is equipped with a surprisingly good eye for the details of Nature. He knows that with the advent of spring "the ants, the bees, the swallows reappear" and

The amorous birds now pair in every brake,
And build their mossy homes in field and brere.

      Shelley's poetry abounds in scientific facts described poetically In the words of Mary Shelley; who knew him best: "His life was spent in the contemplation of Nature, in arduous study; or in acts of kindness and affection. He was ah elegant scholar and a profound metaphysician; without possessing much scientific knowledge, he was unrivaled in the justness and extent of his observations of natural objects; he knew every plant by its name, and was familiar with the history and habits of every production of the earth "

      Treatment of Nature Universalises the Theme of Adonais: Shelley makes the agony over Keats's death universal and sublime by making Nature participate in the mourning. Later, Nature is used as the means of solace and hope for human beings in their loss. Keats is now "one with Nature", and, as such, there is no reason to lament over his death. Thus, we find that Shelley's treatment of Nature in Adonais is quite in keeping with the theme of the poem.

Previous Post Next Post