To Wordsworth: Poem by P. B. Shelley - Summary & Analysis

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Poet of Nature, thou hast wept to know
That things depart which never may return:
Childhood and youth, friendship and love's first glow,
Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn.
These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feel'st, yet I alone deplore.
Thou wert as a lone star, whose light did shine
On some frail bark in-winter's midnight roar:
Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood
Above the blind and battling multitude:
In honored poverty thy voice did weave
Songs consecrate to truth and liberty,—
Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve,
Thus having been, that thou shouldst cease to be.


      Shelley, the admirer of Wordsworth felt sad for Wordsworth's decline since 1805, and this sonnet reflects Shelley's admiration of Wordsworth and his later disillusionment with him. Shelley felt that his decline was due to his adoption of increasingly conservative opinions in politics and his acceptance of government patronage in '1813. Browning too has commented on Wordsworth's decline in his 'The Lost Leader. In this sonnet Shelley speaks for his generation when he rebukes the master for his decline.

      Shelley hails Wordsworth as the poet of Nature and says that Wordsworth has realized that things once departed never return. Childhood, youth, friendship and love's first glow pass away like sweet dreams leaving the dreamer to mourn. Shelley too feels these woes which are common to all mankind. He too like Wordsworth feels the loss, but stands alone to deplore the cause of his fall.

      He then recollects Wordsworth's sunny days as a successful guide. Even in his poverty he wrote poetry of truth and liberty. Like a lonely star guiding a fair boat on a tempestuous winter sea at midnight, and like a strong refuge built of a rock in the middle of a blind and battling mass of people, Wordsworth was inspiring to his contemporaries and younger poets of his time. Such a person of high inspiration and nobility deserted all this, for the sake of money. His fall disappoints Shelley and he grieves over that.

      Shelley refers to Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality in which he laments the passing away of the innocence of childhood. Wordsworth was the champion of 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, but later on he renounced his. faith in democracy and turned a Tory and hence Shelley criticizes his transient nature. By Wordsworth's change, Shelley feels the loss of Wordsworth himself who was a maker of "Songs consecrate to truth and liberty."

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