Subjective Elements in The Poem Adonais

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      Shelley's poetry is regarded as the most subjective in English literature because in no other English poet is this identification so complete as it is in Shelley. Any piece of art is a reflection of the mind and personality of its artist. The extent of this reflection depends on how much the artist identifies himself with his creation. He writes poetry not because he wants to be a poet, but because he finds it the best possible medium to convey his thoughts and ideas. That is why his poetry is so spontaneous, beautiful, honest and confusing. "Theories, speculations, fancies, visions fall headlong in melodious confusion through his poems: they formed equally the driving impulses of his practical everyday life." A thorough analysis of all his poems, and Adonais in particular, can offer us the most detailed autobiography of the poet.

      His Self-Portrait in Adonais: In Stanzas XXXI to XXXIV Shelley portrays himself as one of the poets who have come to mourn the premature death of John Keats. He is modest enough to consider himself a poet of "less note". He refers to the "frail form." the weak constitution of his body, which makes him look like "a phantom among men." He is "companionless", rejected by the society His frustration at being lonely has driven him to the point of anticipating death. He is one who has "gazed on Nature's naked loveliness Actaeon-like". In the myth, Acteaon, the hunter, saw the naked beauty of the Goddess Diana, was transformed into a stag by the Goddess, and was killed by his own hounds. Shelley too has viewed naked truth, expressed his honest and bold interpretations of things, and has become a victim of the society.

      Shelley calls himself "a parklike spiritbeautiful and swift". He stands for the spirit of "Love in desolation masked." In him there is power which has been rendered useless by his numerous weaknesses. He has now become too weak to bear the weight of misfortune. By comparing himself to "a dying lamp", "a falling shower", "a breaking billow", and "the withering flower", the poet obviously is referring to his physical and mental exhaustion.

      Shelley describes himself as one whose:

.....head was bound with pansies overblown,
And faded violets, white, and pied, and blue.

      The 'pansies’ here symbolize the melancholy in the nature of the poet and the 'violets' stand for his inherent modesty His feeling of loneliness and the agony caused by it are beautifully expressed in the following lines:

Of that crew
He came the last, neglected and apart:
A herd-abandoned deer struck by the hunter's dart.

      When Urania asks him who he is, he simply:

Made bare his branded and ensanguined brow
Which was like Cain's or Christ's.

      Shelley is branded by some as an atheist and, at the same time, by some others, as a reformer and preacher of idealistic doctrine. Hence this comparison with Cain, the murderer, and at the same time, with Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind.

      Views on Other Poets. Adonais, to some extent, records Shelley's views on a number of poets. He has great admiration for John Milton, the Sire Paradise Lost, "an immortal strain". The tragic fate of the great poet — Blind, old, and lonely"—fills his heart with agony and sympathy. Shelley considers Milton the third great poet after Homer and Dante — "the third among the sons of light". Of his own contemporaries, he has the greatest respect for Byron, "The Pythian of the age" and a terror to the reviewers and the critics. He makes Byron the leader of the mourners and describes him as:

The Pilgrim of Eternity; whose fame
Over his living head like Heaven is bent
An early but enduring monument.

      By calling Byron, "The Pilgrim of Eternity" the poet is referring to his great poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage which has brought eternal fame for its poet. Shelley has admiration for the Irish poet Thomas Moore whom he calls the "sweetest lyrist". He has also the highest respect for Leigh Hunt, the "gentlest of the wise", who "taught, soothed, loved, honored" the poet Keats. Shelley's opinion of Keats needs no elaboration because the poem Adonais itself stands for his profound reverence for the dead poet.

      Love of Nature and Philosophy: Shelley looks upon Nature as an object of love and admiration. His poetry becomes most musical when he portrays, with rare inspiration and accuracy the details of Nature. His description of the advent of Spring is heartwarming. Like Wordsworth, Shelley differs from the Christian Theology which places God outside His creation thus depriving Nature of a spiritual life. He is often pantheistic in his treatment of Nature. He thinks that every aspect of Nature is a manifestation of one indivisible soul or spirit and that at the end of the earthly existence everything is reunited with that one soul. In Adonais, Keats, after his death, 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, like Plato, Shelley believes that all things in Nature have within and above them a spiritual dimension or a "soul". Thus we find that Shelley has blended in Adonais his Platonic concept of Nature with his pantheistic feelings. 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. It is this spirit of Love that prompts Nature to participate in the mourning for Keats.

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