(1) Adonais is now dead: the Hour which witnessed his loss mourns him, and is to rouse the other Hours to mourn. (2) He was the son of the widowed Urania, (6) her youngest and dearest son. (2) He was slain by a nightly arrow—'pierced by the shaft which flies in darkness.' At the time of his death Urania was in her paradise (pleasure-garden), slumbering, while Echoes listened to the poems which he had written as death was impending. (3) Urania should now wake and weep; yet wherefore? 'He is gone where all things wise and fair descend.' (4) Nevertheless let her weep and lament. (7) Adonais had come to Rome. (8) Death and Corruption are now in his chamber, but Corruption delays as yet to strike. (9) The Dreams whom he nurtured, as a herdsman tends his flock, mourn around him, (10) One of them was deceived for a moment into supposing that a tear shed by itself came from the eyes of Adonais, and must indicate that he was still alive. (11) Another washed his limbs, and a third clipped and shed her locks upon his corpse, &c. (13) Then came others—Desires, Adorations, Fantasies, &c. (14 to 16) Morning lamented, and Echo, and Spring. (17) Aibion wailed. May 'the curse of Cain light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast,' and scared away its angel soul! (20) Can it be that the soul alone dies, when nothing else is annihilated? (22) Misery aroused Urania: urged by Dreams and Echoes, she sprang up, and (23) sought the death-chamber of Adonais, (24) enduring much suffering from 'barbed tongues, and thoughts more sharp than they.' (25) As she arrived, Death was shamed for a moment, and Adonais breathed again: but immediately afterwards 'Death rose and smiled, and met her vain caress.' (26) Urania would fain have died along with Adonais; but, chained as she was to Time, this was denied her. (27) She reproached Adonais for having, though defenceless, dared the dragon in his den. Had he waited till the day of his maturity, 'the monsters of life's waste' would have fled from him, as (28) the wolves, ravens, and vultures had fled from, and fawned upon, 'the Pythian of the age.' (30) Then came the Mountain Shepherds, bewailing Adonais: the Pilgrim of Eternity, the Lyrist of lerne, and (31) among others, one frail form, a pard-like spirit. (34) Urania asked the name of this last Shepherd: he then made bare his branded and ensanguined brow, which was like Cain's or Christ's. (35) Another Mountain Shepherd, 'the gentlest of the wise,' leaned over the deathbed. (36) Adonais has drunk poison. Some 'deaf and viperous murderer' gave him the envenomed draught.
[I must here point out a singular discrepancy in the poem of Adonais, considered as a narrative or apologue. Hitherto we had been told that Adonais was killed by an arrow or dart—he was 'pierced by the shaft which flies in darkness,' and the man who 'pierced his innocent breast' had incurred the curse of Cain: he had 'a wound' (stanza 22). There was also the alternative statement that Adonais, unequipped with the shield of wisdom or the spear of scorn, had been so rash as to 'dare the unpastured dragon in his den'; and from this the natural inference is that not any 'shaft which flies in darkness,' but the dragon himself, had slaughtered the too-venturous youth. But now we hear that he was done to death by poison. Certainly when we look beneath the symbol into the thing symbolized, we can see that these divergent allegations represent the same fact, and the readers of the Elegy are not called upon to form themselves into a coroner's jury to determine whether a 'shaft' or a 'dragon' or 'poison' was the instrument of murder: nevertheless the statements in the text are neither identical nor reconcileable for purposes of mythical narration, and it seems strange that the author should not have taken this into account. It will be found as we proceed (see p. 66) that the reference to 'poison' comes into the poem as a direct reproduction from the Elegy of Moschus upon Bion—being the passage which forms the second of the two mottoes to Adonais.]
(36) This murderer, a 'nameless worm,' was alone callous to the prelude of the forthcoming song. (37) Let him live on in remorse and self-contempt. (38) Neither should we weep that Adonais has 'fled far from these carrion-kites that scream below.' His spirit flows back to its fountain, a portion of the Eternal. (39) Indeed, he is not dead nor sleeping, but 'has awakened from the dream of life.' Not he decays, but we. (41) Let not us, nor the powers of Nature, mourn for Adonais. (42) He is made one with Nature. (45) In 'the unapparent' he was welcomed by Chatterton, Sidney, Lucan, and (46) many more immortals, and was hailed as the master of a 'kingless sphere' in a 'heaven of song.' (48) Let any rash mourner go to Rome, and (49) visit the cemetery. (53) And thou, my heart, why linger and shrink? Adonais calls thee: be no longer divided from him. (55) The soul of Adonais beacons to thee 'from the abode where the Eternal are.'
This may he the most convenient place for raising a question of leading importance to the Argument of Adonais—Who is the personage designated under the name Urania?—a question which, so far as I know, has never yet been mooted among the students of Shelley. Who is Urania? Why is she represented as the mother of Adonais (Keats), and the chief mourner for his untimely death?
In mythology the name Urania is assigned to two divinities wholly distinct. The first is one of the nine Muses, the Muse of Astronomy: the second is Aphrodite (Venus). We may without any hesitation assume that Shelley meant one of these two: but a decision, as to which of the two becomes on reflection by no means so obvious as one might at first suppose. We will first examine the question as to the Muse Urania.
To say that the poet Keats, figured as Adonais, was son to one of the Muses, appears so natural and straightforward a symbolic suggestion as to command summary assent. But why, out of the nine sisters, should the Muse of Astronomy be selected? Keats never wrote about astronomy, and had no qualifications and no faintest inclination for writing about it: this science, and every other exact or speculative science, were highly alien from his disposition and turn of mind. And yet, on casting about for a reason, we can find that after all and in a certain sense there is one forthcoming, of some considerable amount of relevancy. In the eyes of Shelley, Keats was principally and above all the poet of Hyperion; and Hyperion is, strictly speaking, a poem about the sun. In like manner, Endymion is a poem about the moon. Thus, from one point of view—I cannot see any other—Keats might be regarded as inspired by, or a son of, the Muse of Astronomy. A subordinate point of some difficulty arises from stanza 6, where Adonais is spoken of as 'the nursling of thy [Urania's] widowhood'—which seems to mean, son of Urania, born after the father's death. Urania is credited in mythology with the motherhood of two sons—Linus, her offspring by Amphimacus, who was a son of Poseidon, and Hymenaeus, her offspring by Apollo. It might be idle to puzzle over this question of Urania's 'widowhood,' or to attempt to found upon it (on the assumption that Urania the Muse is referred to) any theory as to who her deceased consort could have been: for it is as likely as not that the phrase which I have cited from the poem is not really intended to define with any sort of precision the parentage of the supposititious Adonais, but, practically ignoring Adonais, applies to Keats himself, and means simply that Keats, as the son of the Muse, was born out of time—born in an unpoetical and unappreciative age. Many of my readers will recollect that Milton, in the elaborate address which opens Book 7 of Paradise Lost, invokes Urania. He is careful however to say that he does not mean the Muse Urania, but the spirit of 'Celestial Song,' sister of Eternal Wisdom, both of them well-pleasing to the 'Almighty Father.' Thus far for Urania the Muse.
I now come to Aphrodite Urania. This deity is to be carefully distinguished from the Cyprian or Pandemic Aphrodite: she is different, not only in attribute and function, but even in personality and origin. She is the daughter of Heaven (Uranus) and Light; her influence is heavenly: she is heavenly or spiritual love, as distinct from earthly or carnal love. If the personage in Shelley's Elegy is to be regarded, not as the Muse Urania, but as Aphrodite Urania, she here represents spiritual or intellectual aspiration, the love of abstract beauty, the divine element in poesy or art. As such, Aphrodite Urania would be no less appropriate than Urania or any other Muse to be designated as the mother of Adonais (Keats). But the more cogent argument in favour of Aphrodite Urania is to be based upon grounds of analogy or transfer, rather than upon any reasons of antecedent probability. The part assigned to Urania in Shelley's Elegy is very closely modelled upon the part assigned to Aphrodite in the Elegy of Bion upon Adonis (see the section in this volume, Bion and Moschus). What Aphrodite Cypris does in the Adonis, that Urania does in the Adonais. The resemblances are exceedingly close, in substance and in detail: the divergences are only such as the altered conditions naturally dictate. The Cyprian Aphrodite is the bride of Adonis, and as such she bewails him: the Uranian Aphrodite is the mother of Adonais, and she laments him accordingly. Carnal relationship and carnal love are transposed into spiritual relationship and spiritual love. The hands are the hands, in both poems, of Aphrodite: the voices are respectively those of Cypris and of Urania.
It is also worth observing that the fragmentary poem of Shelley named Prince Athanase, written in 1817, was at first named Pandemos and Urania; and was intended, as Mrs. Shelley informs us, to embody the contrast between 'the earthly and unworthy Venus,' and the nobler ideal of love, the heaven-born or heaven-sent Venus. The poem would thus have borne a certain relation to Alastor, and also to Epipsychidion. The use of the name 'Urania' in this proposed title may help to confirm us in the belief that there is no reason why Shelley should not have used the same name in Adonais with the implied meaning of Aphrodite Urania.
On the whole I am strongly of opinion that the Urania of Adonais is Aphrodite, and not the Muse.
The consideration which, in the preceding section, we have bestowed upon the 'Argument' of Adonais will assist us not a little in grasping the full scope of the poem. It may be broadly divided into three currents of thought, or (as one might say) into three acts of passion. I. The sense of grievous loss in the death of John Keats the youthful and aspiring poet, cut short as he was approaching his prime; and the instinctive impulse to mourning and desolation. 2. The mythical or symbolic embodiment of the events in the laments of Urania and the Mountain Shepherds, and in the denunciation of the ruthless destroyer of the peace and life of Adonais. 3. The rejection of mourning as one-sided, ignorant, and a reversal of the true estimate of the facts; and a recognition of the eternal destiny of Keats in the world of mind, coupled with the yearning of Shelley to have done with the vain shows of things in this cycle of mortality, and to be at one with Keats in the mansions of the everlasting. Such is the evolution of this Elegy; from mourning to rapture: from a purblind consideration of deathly phenomena to the illumination of the individual spirit which contemplates the eternity of spirit as the universal substance.
Shelley raises in his poem a very marked contrast between the death of Adonais (Keats) as a mortal man succumbing to 'the common fate,' and the immortality of his spirit as a vital immaterial essence surviving the death of the body: he uses terms such as might be adopted by any believer in the doctrine of 'the immortality of the soul,' in the ordinary sense of that phrase. It would not however be safe to infer that Shelley, at the precise time when he wrote Adonais, was really in a more definite frame of mind on this theme than at other periods of his life, or of a radically different conviction. As a fact, his feelings on the great problems of immortality were acute, his opinions regarding them vague and unsettled. He certainly was not an adherent of the typical belief on this subject; the belief that a man on this earth is a combination of body and soul, in a state—his sole state—of 'probation'; that, when the body dies and decays, the soul continues to be the same absolute individual identity; and that it passes into a condition of eternal and irreversible happiness or misery, according to the faith entertained or the deeds done in the body. His belief amounted more nearly to this: That a human soul is a portion of the Universal Soul, subjected, during its connexion with the body, to all the illusions, the dreams and nightmares, of sense; and that, after the death of the body, it continues to be a portion of the Universal Soul, liberated, from those illusions, and subsisting in some condition which the human reason is not capable of defining as a state either of personal consciousness or of absorption. And, so far as the human being exercised, during the earthly life, the authentic functions of soul, that same exercise of function continues to be the permanent record of the soul in the world of mind. If any reader thinks that this seems a vague form of belief, the answer is that the belief of Shelley was indeed a vague one. In the poem of Adonais it remains, to my apprehension, as vague as in his other writings: but it assumes a shape of greater definition, because the poem is, by its scheme and intent, a personating poem, in which the soul of Keats has to be greeted by the soul of Chatterton, just as the body of Adonais has to be caressed and bewailed by Urania. Using language of a semi-emblematic kind, we might perhaps express something of Shelley's belief thus:—Mankind is the microcosm, as distinguished from the rest of the universe, which forms the macrocosm; and, as long as a man's body and soul remain in combination, his soul pertains to the microcosm: when this combination ceases with the death of the body, his soul, in whatever sense it may be held to exist, lapses into the macrocosm, but there is neither knowledge as to the mode of its existence, nor speech capable of recording this.
As illustrating our poet's conceptions on these mysterious subjects, I append extracts from three of his prose writings. The first extract comes from his fragment On Life, which may have been written (but this is quite uncertain) towards 1815; the second from his fragment On a Future State, for which some similar date is suggested; the third from the notes to his drama of Hellas, written in 1821, later than Adonais.
(1) 'The most refined abstractions of logic conduct to a view of Life which, though startling to the apprehension, is in fact that which the habitual sense of its repeated combinations has extinguished in us. It strips, as it were, the painted curtain from this scene of things. I confess that I am one of those who am unable to refuse my assent to the conclusions of those philosophers who assert that nothing exists but as it is perceived. It is a decision against which all our persuasions struggle—and we must be long convicted before we can be convinced that the solid universe of external things is "such stuff as dreams are made of." The shocking absurdities of the popular philosophy of mind and matter, its fatal consequences in morals, and their [? the] violent dogmatism concerning the source of all things, had early conducted me to Materialism. This Materialism is a seducing system to young and superficial minds: it allows its disciples to talk, and dispenses them from thinking. But I was discontented with such a view of things as it afforded. Man is a being of high aspirations, "looking both before and after," whose "thoughts wander through eternity," disclaiming alliance with transcience and decay; incapable of imagining to himself annihilation; existing but in the future and the past; being, not what he is, but what he has been and shall be. Whatever may be his true and final destination, there is a spirit within him at enmity with nothingness and dissolution. This is the character of all life and being. Each is at once the centre and the circumference; the point to which all things are referred, and the line in which all things are contained. Such contemplations as these Materialism, and the popular philosophy of mind and matter, alike forbid: they are only consistent with the Intellectual System.... The view of Life presented by the most refined deductions of the Intellectual Philosophy is that of unity. Nothing exists but as it is perceived. The difference is merely nominal between those two classes of thought which are vulgarly distinguished by the names of "ideas" and of "external objects." Pursuing the same thread of reasoning, the existence of distinct individual minds, similar to that which is employed in now questioning its own nature, is likewise found to be a delusion. The words "I, you, they," are not signs of any actual difference subsisting between the assemblage of thoughts thus indicated, but are merely marks employed to denote the different modifications of the one mind. Let it not be supposed that this doctrine conducts to the monstrous presumption that I, the person who now write and think, am that one mind. I am but a portion of it.'
(2) 'Suppose however that the intellectual and vital principle differs in the most marked and essential manner from all other known substances; that they have all some resemblance between themselves which it in no degree participates. In what manner can this concession be made an argument for its imperishability? All that we see or know perishes and is changed. Life and thought differ indeed from everything else: but that it survives that period beyond which we have no experience of its existence such distinction and dissimilarity affords no shadow of proof, and nothing but our own desires could have led us to conjecture or imagine. Have we existed before birth? It is difficult to conceive the possibility of this.... If we have not existed before birth; if, at the period when the parts of our nature on which thought and life depend seem to be woven together, they are woven together; if there are no reasons to suppose that we have existed before that period at which our existence apparently commences; then there are no grounds for supposition that we shall continue to exist after our existence has apparently ceased. So far as thought and life is concerned, the same will take place with regard to us, individually considered, after death, as had place before our birth. It is said that it is possible that we should continue to exist in some mode totally inconceivable to us at present. This is a most unreasonable presumption.... Such assertions ... persuade indeed only those who desire to be persuaded. This desire to be for ever as we are—the reluctance to a violent and unexperienced change which is common to all the animated and inanimate combinations of the universe—is indeed the secret persuasion which has given birth to the opinions of a Future State.'
(3. Note to the chorus, 'Worlds on worlds are rolling ever,' &c.) 'The first stanza contrasts the immortality of the living and thinking beings which inhabit the planets and (to use a common and inadequate phrase) clothe themselves in matter, with the transcience of the noblest manifestations of the external world. The concluding verses indicate a progressive state of more or less exalted existence, according to the degree of perfection which every distinct intelligence may have attained. Let it not be supposed that I mean to dogmatise upon a subject concerning which all men are equally ignorant, or that I think the Gordian knot of the origin of evil can be disentangled by that or any similar assertions.... That there is a true solution of the riddle, and that in our present state that solution is unattainable by us, are propositions which may be regarded as equally certain: meanwhile, as it is the province of the poet to attach himself to those ideas which exalt and ennoble humanity, let him be permitted to have conjectured the condition of that futurity towards which we are all impelled by an inextinguishable thirst for immortality. Until better arguments can be produced than sophisms which disgrace the cause, this desire itself must remain the strongest and the only presumption that eternity is the inheritance of every thinking being.'
The reader will perceive that in these three passages the dominant ideas, very briefly stated, are as follows:—(1) Mind is the aggregate of all individual minds; (2) man has no reason for expecting that his mind or soul will be immortal; (3) no reason, except such as inheres in the very desire which he feels for immortality. These opinions, deliberately expressed by Shelley at different dates as a theorist in prose, should be taken into account if we endeavour to estimate what he means when, as a poet, he speaks, whether in Hellas or in Adonais, of an individual, his mind and his immortality. When Shelley calls upon us to regard Keats (Adonais) as mortal in body but immortal in soul or mind, his real intent is probably limited to this: that Keats has been liberated, by the death of the body, from the dominion and delusions of the senses; and that he, while in the flesh, developed certain fruits of mind which survive his body, and will continue to survive it indefinitely, and will form a permanent inheritance of thought and of beauty to succeeding generations. Keats himself, in one of his most famous lines, expressed a like conception,
'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.'
Shelley was faithful to his canons of highest literary or poetical form in giving a Greek shape to his elegy on Keats; but it may be allowed to his English readers, or at any rate to some of them, to think that he hereby fell into a certain degree of artificiality of structure, undesirable in itself, and more especially hampering him in a plain and self-consistent expression both of his real feeling concerning Keats, and of his resentment against those who had cut short, or were supposed to have cut short, the career and the poetical work of his friend. Moreover Shelley went beyond the mere recurrence to Greek forms of impersonation and expression: he took two particular Greek authors, and two particular Greek poems, as his principal model. These two poems are the Elegy of Bion on Adonis, and the Elegy of Moschus on Bion. To imitate is not to plagiarize; and Shelley cannot reasonably be called a plagiarist because he introduced into Adonais passages which are paraphrased or even translated from Bion and Moschus. It does seem singular however that neither in the Adonais volume nor in any of his numerous written remarks upon the poem does Shelley ever once refer to this state of the facts. Possibly in using the name 'Adonais' he intended to refer the reader indirectly to the 'Adonis' of Bion; and he prefixed to the preface of his poem, as a motto, four verses from the Elegy of Moschus upon Bion. This may have been intended for a hint to the reader as to the Grecian sources of the poem. The whole matter will receive detailed treatment in our next section, as well as in the Notes.
The passages of Adonais which can be traced back to Bion and Moschus are not the finest things in the poem: mostly they fill out its fabular 'argument' with brilliancy and suavity, rather than with nerve and pathos. The finest things are to be found in the denunciation of the 'deaf and viperous murderer;' in the stanzas concerning the 'Mountain Shepherds,' especially the figure representing Shelley himself; and in the solemn and majestic conclusion, where the poet rises from the region of earthly sorrow into the realm of ideal aspiration and contemplation.
Shelley is generally—and I think most justly—regarded as a peculiarly melodious versifier: but it must not be supposed that he is rigidly exact in his use of rhyme. The contrary can be proved from the entire body of his poems. Adonais is, in this respect, neither more nor less correct than his other writings. It would hardly be reasonable to attribute his laxity in rhyming to either carelessness, indifference, or unskilfulness: but rather to a deliberate preference for a certain variety in the rhyme-sounds—as tending to please the ear, and availing to satisfy it in the total effect, without cloying it by any tight-drawn uniformity. Such a preference can be justified on two grounds: firstly, that the general effect of the slightly varied sounds is really the more gratifying of the two methods, and I believe that, practised within reasonable limits, it is so; and secondly, that the requirements of sense are superior to those of sound, and that, in the effort after severely exact rhyming, a writer would often, be compelled to sacrifice some delicacy of thought, or some grace or propriety of diction. Looking through the stanzas of Adonais, I find the following laxities of rhyming: Compeers, dares; anew, knew (this repetition of an identical syllable as if it were a rhyme is very frequent with Shelley, who evidently considered it to be permissible, and even right—and in this view he has plenty of support): God; road; last, waste; taught, not; break, cheek (two instances); ground, moaned; both, youth; rise, arise; song, stung; steel, fell; light, delight; part, depart; wert, heart; wrong, tongue; brow, so; moan, one; crown, tone; song, unstrung; knife, grief; mourn, burn; dawn, moan; bear, bear; blot, thought; renown, Chatterton; thought, not; approved, reproved; forth, earth; nought, not; home, tomb; thither, together; wove, of; riven, heaven. These are 34 instances of irregularity. The number of stanzas in Adonais is 55: therefore there is more than one such irregularity for every two stanzas.
It may not be absolutely futile if we bestow a little more attention upon the details of these laxities of rhyme. The repetition of an identical syllable has been cited 6 times. In 4 instances the sound of taught is assimilated to that of not (I take here no account of differences of spelling, but only of the sounds); in 4, the sound of ground and of renown to that of moaned, or of Chatterton; in 2, the sound of o in road, both, and wove, to that in God, youth, and of; in 3, the sound of song to that of stung; in 2, the sound of ee in compeers, steel, cheek, and grief, to that in dares, fell, break and knife; in 2, the sound of e in wert and earth to that in heart and forth; in 3, the sound of o in moan and home to that in one, dawn, and tomb; in 2, the sound of thither to that of together. The other cases which I have cited have only a single instance apiece. It results therefore that the vowel-sound subjected to the most frequent variations is that of o, whether single or in combination.
Shelley may be considered to allow himself more than an average degree of latitude in rhyming: but it is a fact that, if the general body of English poetry is scrutinized, it will be found to be more or less lax in this matter. This question is complicated by another question—that of how words were pronounced at different periods in our literary history: in order to exclude the most serious consequent difficulties, I shall say nothing here about any poet prior to Milton. I take at haphazard four pages of rhymed verse from each of the following six poets, and the result proves to be as follows:—
Milton.—Pass, was; feast, rest; come, room; still, invisible; vouchsafe, safe; moon, whereon; ordained, land. 7 instances.
Dryden.—Alone, fruition; guard, heard; pursued, good: procured, secured, 4 instances.
Pope.—Given, heaven; steer, character; board, lord; fault, thought; err, singular. 5 instances.
Gray.—Beech, stretch; borne, thorn; abode, God; broke, rock, 4 instances.
Coleridge.—Not a single instance.
Byron.—Given, heaven; Moore, yore; look, duke; song, tongue; knot, not; of, enough; bestowed, mood. 7 instances.
In all these cases, as in that of Shelley's Adonais, I have taken no count of those instances of lax sound-rhyme which are correct letter-rhyme—such as the coupling of move with love, or of star with war; for these, however much some more than commonly purist ears may demur to them, appear to be part and parcel of the rhyming system of the English language. I need hardly say that, if these cases had been included, my list would in every instance have swelled considerably; nor yet that I am conscious how extremely partial and accidental is the test, as to comparative number of laxities, which I have here supplied.
The Spenserian metre, in which Adonais is written, was used by Shelley in only one other instance—his long ideal epic The Revolt of Islam.
BION AND MOSCHUS.
The relation of Shelley's Elegy of Adonais to the two Elegies written by Bion and by Moschus must no doubt have been observed, and been more or less remarked upon, as soon as Adonais obtained some currency among classical readers; Captain Medwin, in his Shelley Papers, 1832, referred to it. I am not however aware that the resemblances had ever been brought out in detail until Mr. G.S.D. Murray, of Christ Church, Oxford, noted down the passages from Bion, which were published accordingly in my edition of Shelley's Poems, 1870. Since then, 1888, Lieut.-Colonel Hime, R.A., issued a pamphlet (Dulau & Co.) entitled The Greek Materials of Shelley's Adonais, with Remarks on the three Great English Elegies, entering into further, yet not exhaustive, particulars on the same subject. Shelley himself made a fragmentary translation from the Elegy of Bion on Adonis: it was first printed in Mr. Forman's edition of Shelley's Poems, 1877. I append here those passages which are directly related to Adonais:—
'I mourn Adonis dead—loveliest Adonis— Dead, dead Adonis—and the Loves lament. Sleep no more, Venus, wrapped in purple woof— Wake, violet-stoled queen, and weave the crown Of death,—'tis Misery calls,—for he is dead. ... Aphrodite With hair unbound is wandering through the woods, Wildered, ungirt, unsandalled—the thorns pierce Her hastening feet, and drink her sacred blood.
* * * * *
The flowers are withered up with grief. * * * * * Echo resounds, . . "Adonis dead!" * * * * * She clasped him, and cried ... "Stay, Adonis! Stay, dearest one,... And mix my lips with thine! Wake yet a while, Adonis—oh but once!— That I may kiss thee now for the last time— But for as long as one short kiss may live!"
The reader familiar with Adonais will recognise the passages in that poem of which we here have the originals. To avoid repetition, I do not cite them at the moment, but shall call attention to them successively in my Notes at the end of the volume.
For other passages, also utilised by Shelley, I have recourse to the volume of Mr. Andrew Lang (Macmillan & Co. 1889), Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, rendered into English Prose. And first, from Bion's Elegy on Adonis:—
'The flowers flush red for anguish.... This kiss will I treasure, even as thyself, Adonis, since, ah ill-fated! thou art fleeing me,... while wretched I yet live, being a goddess, and may not follow thee. Persephone, take thou my lover, my lord, for thyself art stronger than I, and all lovely things drift down to thee.... For why ah overbold! didst thou follow the chase, and, being so fair, why wert thou thus over-hardy to fight with beasts?... A tear the Paphian sheds for each blood-drop of Adonis, and tears and blood on the earth are turned to flowers.... Ah even in death he is beautiful, beautiful in death, as one that hath fallen on sleep.... All things have perished in his death, yea all the flowers are faded.... He reclines, the delicate Adonis, in his raiment of purple, and around him the Loves are weeping and groaning aloud, clipping their locks for Adonis. And one upon his shafts, another on his bow, is treading, and one hath loosed the sandal of Adonis, and another hath broken his own feathered quiver, and one in a golden vessel bears water, and another laves the wound, and another, from behind him, with his wings is fanning Adonis.... Thou must again bewail him, again must weep for him another year.... He does not heed them [the Muses]; not that he is doth to hear, but that the Maiden of Hades doth not let him go.'
The next-ensuing passages come from the Elegy of Moschus for Bion:—
'Ye flowers, now in sad clusters breathe yourselves away. Now redden, ye roses, in your sorrow, and now wax red, ye wind-flowers; now, thou hyacinth, whisper the letters on thee graven, and add a deeper ai ai to thy petals: he is dead, the beautiful singer.... Ye nightingales that lament among the thick leaves of the trees, tell ye to the Sicilian waters of Arethusa the tidings that Bion the herdsman is dead.... Thy sudden doom, O Bion, Apollo himself lamented, and the Satyrs mourned thee, and the Priapi in sable raiment, and the Panes sorrow for thy song, and the Fountain-fairies in the wood made moan, and their tears turned to rivers of waters. And Echo in the rocks laments that thou art silent, and no more she mimics thy voice. And in sorrow for thy fall the trees cast down their fruit, and all the flowers have faded.... Nor ever sang so sweet the nightingale on the cliffs,... nor so much, by the grey sea-waves, did ever the sea-bird sing, nor so much in the dells of dawn did the bird of Memnon bewail the son of the Morning, fluttering around his tomb, as they lamented for Bion dead.... Echo, among the reeds, doth still feed upon thy songs.... This, O most musical of rivers, is thy second sorrow,—this, Meles, thy new woe. Of old didst thou lose Homer:... now again another son thou weepest, and in a new sorrow art thou wasting away.... Nor so much did pleasant Lesbos mourn for Alcaeus, nor did the Teian town so greatly bewail her poet,... and not for Sappho but still for thee doth Mitylene wail her musical lament.... Ah me! when the mallows wither in the garden, and the green parsley, and the curled tendrils of the anise, on a later day they live again, and spring In another year: but we men, we the great and mighty or wise, when once we have died, in hollow earth we sleep, gone down into silence.... Poison came, Bion, to thy mouth—thou didst know poison. To such lips as thine did it come, and was not sweetened? What mortal was so cruel that could mix poison for thee, or who could give thee the venom that heard thy voice? Surely he had no music in his soul,... But justice hath overtaken them all.'
Bion was born in Smyrna, or in a neighbouring village named Phlossa, and may have died at some date not far from 250 B.C. The statement of Moschus that Bion was poisoned by certain enemies appears to be intended as an assertion of actual fact. Of Moschus nothing distinct is known, beyond his being a native of Sicily.
AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF JOHN KEATS,
Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc.
Astaer prin men elampes eni zooisin eoos. Nun de thanon lampeis esperos en phthimenois.]
Pharmakon aelthe Bion poti son stoma, pharmakon eides. Pos teu tois cheilessi potedrame kouk eglukanthae; Tis de Brotos tossouton anameros ae kerasai toi, Ae dounai laleonti to pharmakon; ekphugen odan.]
MOSCHUS, EPITAPH. BION.
It is my intention to subjoin to the London edition of this poem a criticism upon the claims of its lamented object to be classed among the writers of the highest genius who have adorned our age. 15 My known repugnance to the narrow principles of taste on which several of his earlier compositions were modelled proves at least that I am an impartial judge. I consider the fragment of Hyperion as second to nothing that was ever produced by a writer of the same years. 20
John Keats died at Rome of a consumption, in his twenty-fourth year, on the [23rd] of [February] 1821; and was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now mouldering and desolate, which formed the circuit of 25 ancient Rome. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.
30 The genius of the lamented person to whose memory I have dedicated these unworthy verses was not less delicate and fragile than it was beautiful; and, where canker-worms abound, what wonder if its young flower was blighted in the bud? The savage criticism on his Endymion which appeared in the Quarterly Review produced the 35 most violent effect on his susceptible mind. The agitation thus originated ended in the rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs; a rapid consumption ensued; and the succeeding acknowledgments, from more candid critics, of the true greatness of his powers, were ineffectual to heal the wound thus wantonly inflicted.
40 It may be well said that these wretched men know not what they do. They scatter their insults and their slanders without heed as to whether the poisoned shaft lights on a heart made callous by many blows, or one, like Keats's, composed of more penetrable stuff. One of their associates is, to my knowledge, a most base and unprincipled 45 calumniator. As to Endymion, was it a poem, whatever might be its defects, to be treated contemptuously by those who had celebrated with various degrees of complacency and panegyric Paris, and Woman and A Syrian Tale, and Mrs. Lefanu, and Mr. Barrett, and Mr. Howard Payne, and a long list of the illustrious 50 obscure? Are these the men who, in their venal good-nature, presumed to draw a parallel between the Rev. Mr. Milman and Lord Byron? What gnat did they strain at here, after having swallowed all those camels? Against what woman taken in adultery dares the foremost of these literary prostitutes to cast his opprobrious stone? 55 Miserable man! you, one of the meanest, have wantonly defaced one of the noblest, specimens of the workmanship of God. Nor shall it be your excuse that, murderer as you are, you have spoken daggers, but used none.
The circumstances of the closing scene of poor Keats's life were 60 not made known to me until the Elegy was ready for the press. I am given to understand that the wound which his sensitive spirit had received from the criticism of Endymion was exasperated by the bitter sense of unrequited benefits; the poor fellow seems to have been hooted from the stage of life, no less by those on whom 65 he had wasted the promise of his genius than those on whom he had lavished his fortune and his care. He was accompanied to Rome, and attended in his last illness, by Mr. Severn, a young artist of the highest promise, who, I have been informed, 'almost risked his own life, and sacrificed every prospect to unwearied attendance upon his dying friend.' Had I known these circumstances before the completion 70 of my poem, I should have been tempted to add my feeble tribute of applause to the more solid recompense which the virtuous man finds in the recollection of his own motives. Mr. Severn can dispense with a reward from 'such stuff as dreams are made of.' His conduct is a golden augury of the success of his future career. 75 May the unextinguished spirit of his illustrious friend animate the creations of his pencil, and plead against oblivion for his name!
I weep for Adonais—he is dead! Oh weep for Adonais, though our tears Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head! And thou, sad Hour selected from all years To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers, 5 And teach them thine own sorrow! Say: 'With me Died Adonais! Till the future dares Forget the past, his fate and fame shall be An echo and a light unto eternity.'
Where wert thou, mighty Mother, when he lay, When thy son lay, pierced by the shaft which flies In darkness? Where was lorn Urania When Adonais died? With veiled eyes, 'Mid listening Echoes, in her paradise 5 She sate, while one, with soft enamoured breath, Rekindled all the fading melodies With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneath, He had adorned and hid the coming bulk of Death.
Oh weep for Adonais—he is dead! Wake, melancholy Mother, wake and weep!— Yet wherefore? Quench within their burning bed Thy fiery tears, and let thy loud heart keep, Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep; 5 For he is gone where all things wise and fair Descend. Oh dream not that the amorous deep Will yet restore him to the vital air; Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair.
Most musical of mourners, weep again! Lament anew, Urania!—He died Who was the sire of an immortal strain, Blind, old, and lonely, when his country's pride The priest, the slave, and the liberticide, 5 Trampled and mocked with many a loathed rite Of lust and blood. He went unterrified Into the gulf of death; but his clear sprite Yet reigns o'er earth, the third among the Sons of Light.
Most musical of mourners, weep anew! Not all to that bright station dared to climb: And happier they their happiness who knew, Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time In which suns perished. Others more sublime, 5 Struck by the envious wrath of man or God, Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime; And some yet live, treading the thorny road Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode.
But now thy youngest, dearest one has perished, The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew, Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherished, And fed with true love tears instead of dew. Most musical of mourners, weep anew! 5 Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last, The bloom whose petals, nipt before they blew, Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste; The broken lily lies—the storm is overpast.
To that high Capital where kingly Death Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay He came; and bought, with price of purest breath, A grave among the eternal.—Come away! Haste, while the vault of blue Italian day 5 Is yet his fitting charnel-roof, while still He lies as if in dewy sleep he lay. Awake him not! surely he takes his fill Of deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill.
He will awake no more, oh never more! Within the twilight chamber spreads apace The shadow of white Death, and at the door Invisible Corruption waits to trace His extreme way to her dim dwelling-place; 5 The eternal Hunger sits, but pity and awe Soothe her pale rage, nor dares she to deface So fair a prey, till darkness and the law Of change shall o'er his sleep the mortal curtain draw.
Oh weep for Adonais!—The quick Dreams, The passion-winged ministers of thought, Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught The love which was its music, wander not— 5 Wander no more from kindling brain to brain, But droop there whence they sprung; and mourn their lot Round the cold heart where, after their sweet pain, They ne'er will gather strength or find a home again.
And one with trembling hands clasps his cold head, And fans him with her moonlight wings, and cries, 'Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead! See, on the silken fringe of his faint eyes, Like dew upon a sleeping flower, there lies 5 A tear some Dream has loosened from his brain,' Lost angel of a ruined paradise! She knew not 'twas her own,—as with no stain She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain.
One from a lucid urn of starry dew Washed his light limbs, as if embalming them; Another dipt her profuse locks, and threw The wreath upon him, like an anadem Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem; 5 Another in her wilful grief would break Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem A greater loss with one which was more weak, And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek.
Another Splendour on his mouth alit, That mouth whence it was wont to draw the breath Which gave it strength to pierce the guarded wit, And pass into the panting heart beneath With lightning and with music: the damp death 5 Quenched its caress upon his icy lips; And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath Of moonlight vapour which the cold night clips, It flushed through his pale limbs, and passed to its eclipse.
And others came,—Desires and Adorations, Winged Persuasions, and veiled Destinies, Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering incarnations Of Hopes and Fears, and twilight Phantasies; And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs, 5 And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam Of her own dying smile instead of eyes, Came in slow pomp;—the moving pomp might seem Like pageantry of mist on an autumnal stream.
All he had loved, and moulded into thought From shape and hue and odour and sweet sound. Lamented Adonais. Morning sought Her eastern watch-tower, and her hair unbound, Wet with the tears which should adorn the ground, 5 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.
Lost Echo sits amid the voiceless mountains, And feeds her grief with his remembered lay, And will no more reply to winds or fountains, Or amorous birds perched on the young green spray, Or herdsman's horn, or bell at closing day; 5 Since she can mimic not his lips, more dear Than those for whose disdain she pined away Into a shadow of all sounds:—a drear Murmur, between their songs, is all the woodmen hear.
Grief made the young Spring wild, and she threw down Her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were, Or they dead leaves; since her delight is flown, For whom should she have waked the sullen Year? To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear, 5 Nor to himself Narcissus, as to both Thou, Adonais; wan they stand and sere Amid the faint companions of their youth, With dew all turned to tears,—odour, to sighing ruth.
Thy spirit's sister, the lorn nightingale, Mourns not her mate with such melodious pain; Not so the eagle, who like thee could scale Heaven, and could nourish in the sun's domain Her mighty young with morning, doth complain, 5 Soaring and screaming round her empty nest, As Albion wails for thee: the curse of Cain Light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast, And scared the angel soul that was its earthly guest!
Ah woe is me! Winter is come and gone, But grief returns with the revolving year. The airs and streams renew their joyous tone; The ants, the bees, the swallows, re-appear; Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Seasons' bier; 5 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.
Through wood and stream and field and hill and ocean, A quickening life from the Earth's heart has burst, As it has ever done, with change and motion, From the great morning of the world when first God dawned on chaos. In its steam immersed, 5 The lamps of heaven flash with a softer light; All baser things pant with life's sacred thirst, Diffuse themselves, and spend in love's delight The beauty and the joy of their renewed might.
The leprous corpse, touched by this spirit tender, Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath; Like incarnations of the stars, when splendour Is changed to fragrance, they illumine death, And mock the merry worm that wakes beneath. 5 Nought we know dies: shall that alone which knows Be as a sword consumed before the sheath By sightless lightning? Th' intense atom glows A moment, then is quenched in a most cold repose.
Alas that all we loved of him should be, But for our grief, as if it had not been, And grief itself be mortal! Woe is me! Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene The actors or spectators? Great and mean 5 Meet massed in death, who lends what life must borrow. As long as skies are blue and fields are green, Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow, Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow.
He will awake no more, oh never more! 'Wake thou,' cried Misery, 'childless Mother; Rise Out of thy sleep, and slake in thy heart's core A wound more fierce than his, with tears and sighs.' And all the Dreams that watched Urania's eyes, 5 And all the Echoes whom their Sister's song Had held in holy silence, cried 'Arise!' Swift as a thought by the snake memory stung, From her ambrosial rest the fading Splendour sprung.
She rose like an autumnal Night that springs Out of the east, and follows wild and drear The golden Day, which on eternal wings, Even as a ghost abandoning a bier, Had left the Earth a corpse. Sorrow and fear 5 So struck, so roused, so rapt, Urania; So saddened round her like an atmosphere Of stormy mist; so swept her on her way, Even to the mournful place where Adonais lay.
Out of her secret paradise she sped, 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 fell. 5 And barbed tongues, and thoughts more sharp than they, Rent the soft form they never could repel, Whose sacred blood, like the young tears of May, Paved with eternal flowers that undeserving way.
In the death-chamber for a moment Death, Shamed by the presence of that living might, Blushed to annihilation, and the breath Revisited those lips, and life's pale light Flashed through those limbs so late her dear delight. 5 'Leave me not wild and drear and comfortless, As silent lightning leaves the starless night! Leave me not!' cried Urania. Her distress Roused Death: Death rose and smiled, and met her vain caress.
'Stay yet awhile! speak to me once again! Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live! And in my heartless breast and burning brain That word, that kiss, shall all thoughts else survive, With food of saddest memory kept alive, 5 Now thou art dead, as if it were a part Of thee, my Adonais! I would give All that I am, to be as thou now art:— But I am chained to Time, and cannot thence depart.
'O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert, Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart Dare the unpastured dragon in his den? Defenceless as thou wert, oh where was then 5 Wisdom the mirrored shield, or scorn the spear?— Or, hadst thou waited the full cycle when Thy spirit should have filled its crescent sphere, The monsters of life's waste had fled from thee like deer.
'The herded wolves bold only to pursue, The obscene ravens clamorous o'er the dead, The vultures to the conqueror's banner true, Who feed where desolation first has fed, And whose wings rain contagion,—how they fled, 5 When like Apollo, from his golden bow, The Pythian of the age one arrow sped, And smiled!—The spoilers tempt no second blow, They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low.
'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. So is it in the world of living men: 5 A godlike mind soars forth, in its delight Making earth bare and veiling heaven; and, when It sinks, the swarms that dimmed or shared its light Leave to its kindred lamps the spirit's awful night.'
Thus ceased she: and the Mountain Shepherds came, Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent. The Pilgrim of Eternity, whose fame Over his living head like heaven is bent, An early but enduring monument, 5 Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song In sorrow. From her wilds Ierne sent The sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong, And love taught grief to fall like music from his tongue.
'Midst others of less note came one frail form, A phantom among men, companionless As the last cloud of an expiring storm Whose thunder is its knell. He, as I guess, Had gazed on Nature's naked loveliness 5 Actaeon-like; and now he fled astray With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness, And his own thoughts along that rugged way Pursued like raging hounds their father and their prey.
A pard-like Spirit beautiful and swift— A love in desolation masked—a power Girt round with weakness; it can scarce uplift The weight of the superincumbent hour. It is a dying lamp, a falling shower, 5 A breaking billow;—even whilst we speak Is it not broken? On the withering flower The killing sun smiles brightly: on a cheek The life can burn in blood even while the heart may break.
His head was bound with pansies overblown, And faded violets, white and pied and blue; And a light spear topped with a cypress cone, Round whose rude shaft dark ivy tresses grew Yet dripping with the forest's noonday dew, 5 Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart Shook the weak hand that grasped it. Of that crew He came the last, neglected and apart; A herd-abandoned deer struck by the hunter's dart.
All stood aloof, and at his partial moan Smiled through their tears; well knew that gentle band Who in another's fate now wept his own; As in the accents of an unknown land He sang new sorrow; sad Urania scanned 5 The Stranger's mien, and murmured 'Who art thou?' He answered not, but with a sudden hand Made bare his branded and ensanguined brow, Which was like Cain's or Christ's—Oh that it should be so!
What softer voice is hushed over the dead? Athwart what brow is that dark mantle thrown? What form leans sadly o'er the white death-bed, In mockery of monumental stone, The heavy heart heaving without a moan? 5 If it be he who, gentlest of the wise, Taught, soothed, loved, honoured, the departed one. Let me not vex with inharmonious sighs The silence of that heart's accepted sacrifice.
Our Adonais has drunk poison—oh What deaf and viperous murderer could crown Life's early cup with such a draught of woe? The nameless worm would now itself disown; It felt, yet could escape, the magic tone 5 Whose prelude held all envy, hate, and wrong, But what was howling in one breast alone, Silent with expectation of the song Whose master's hand is cold, whose silver lyre unstrung.
Live thou, whose infamy is not thy fame! Live! fear no heavier chastisement from me, Thou noteless blot on a remembered name! But be thyself, and know thyself to be! And ever at thy season be thou free 5 To spill the venom when thy fangs o'erflow; Remorse and self-contempt shall cling to thee, Hot shame shall burn upon thy secret brow, And like a beaten hound tremble thou shalt—as now.
Nor let us weep that our delight is fled Far from these carrion kites that scream below. He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead; Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now. Dust to the dust: but the pure spirit shall flow 5 Back to the burning fountain whence it came, A portion of the Eternal, which must glow Through time and change, unquenchably the same, Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame.
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep! He hath awakened from the dream of life. 'Tis we who, lost in stormy visions, keep With phantoms an unprofitable strife, And in mad trance strike with our spirit's knife 5 Invulnerable nothings. We decay Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief Convulse us and consume us day by day, And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
He has outsoared the shadow of our night. Envy and calumny and hate and pain, And that unrest which men miscall delight, Can touch him not and torture not again. From the contagion of the world's slow stain 5 He is secure; and now can never mourn A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain— Nor, when the spirit's self has ceased to burn, With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.
He lives, he wakes—'tis Death is dead, not he; Mourn not for Adonais.—Thou young Dawn, Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee The spirit thou lamentest is not gone! Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan! 5 Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains! and thou Air, Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown O'er the abandoned Earth, now leave it bare Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!
He is made one with Nature. There is heard His voice in all her music, from the moan Of thunder to the song of night's sweet bird. He is a presence to be felt and known In darkness and in light, from herb and stone, 5 Spreading itself where'er that Power may move Which has withdrawn his being to its own, Which wields the world with never wearied love, Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.
He is 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; 5 Torturing th' unwilling dross, that checks its flight, To its own likeness, as each mass may bear; And bursting in its beauty and its might From trees and beasts and men into the heaven's light.
The splendours of the firmament of time May be eclipsed, but are extinguished not; Like stars to their appointed height they climb, And death is a low mist which cannot blot The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought 5 Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair, And love and life contend in it for what Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there, And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air.
The inheritors of unfulfilled renown Rose from their thrones, built beyond mortal thought, Far in the unapparent. Chatterton Rose pale, his solemn agony had not Yet faded from him; Sidney, as he fought 5 And as he fell and as he lived and loved Sublimely mild, a spirit without spot, Arose; and Lucan, by his death approved;— Oblivion as they rose shrank like a thing reproved.
And many more, whose names on earth are dark But whose transmitted effluence cannot die So long as fire outlives the parent spark, Rose, robed in dazzling immortality. 'Thou art become as one of us,' they cry; 5 'It was for thee yon kingless sphere has long Swung blind in unascended majesty, Silent alone amid an heaven of song. Assume thy winged throne, thou Vesper of our throng!'
Who mourns for Adonais? Oh come forth, Fond wretch, and know thyself and him aright. Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous earth; As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might 5 Satiate the void circumference: then shrink Even to a point within our day and night; And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink When hope has kindled hope, and lured thee to the brink.
Or go to Rome, which is the sepulchre, Oh not of him, but of our joy. 'Tis nought That ages, empires, and religions, there Lie buried in the ravage they have wrought; For such as he can lend—they borrow not 5 Glory from those who made the world their prey: And he is gathered to the kings of thought Who waged contention with their time's decay, And of the past are all that cannot pass away.
Go thou to Rome,—at once the paradise, The grave, the city, and the wilderness; And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise, And flowering weeds and fragrant copses dress The bones of Desolation's nakedness, 5 Pass, till the Spirit of the spot shall lead Thy footsteps to a slope of green access, Where, like an infant's smile, over the dead A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread.
And grey walls moulder round, on which dull Time Feeds, like slow fire upon a hoary brand; And one keen pyramid with wedge sublime, Pavilioning the dust of him who planned This refuge for his memory, doth stand 5 Like flame transformed to marble; and beneath A field is spread, on which a newer band Have pitched in heaven's smile their camp of death, Welcoming him we lose with scarce extinguished breath.
Here pause. These graves are all too young as yet To have outgrown the sorrow which consigned Its charge to each; and, if the seal is set Here on one fountain of a mourning mind, Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find 5 Thine own well full, if thou returnest home, Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb. What Adonais is why fear we to become?
The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven's light for ever shines, earth's shadows fly; Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of eternity, Until Death tramples it to fragments.—Die, 5 If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek! Follow where all is fled!—Rome's azure sky, Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.
Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my heart? Thy hopes are gone before: from all things here They have departed; thou shouldst now depart! A light is past from the revolving year, And man and woman; and what still is dear 5 Attracts to crush, repels to make thee wither. The soft sky smiles, the low wind whispers near: 'Tis Adonais calls! Oh hasten thither! No more let life divide what death can join together.
That light whose smile kindles the universe, That beauty in which all things work and move, That benediction which the eclipsing curse Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love Which, through the web of being blindly wove 5 By man and beast and earth and air and sea, Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of The fire for which all thirst, now beams on me, Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality.
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! 5 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.
CANCELLED PASSAGES OF ADONAIS,
AND OF ITS PREFACE.
The expression of my indignation and sympathy. I will allow myself a first and last word on the subject of calumny as it relates to me. As an author I have dared and invited censure. If I understand myself, I have written neither for profit nor for fame: I have employed my poetical compositions and publications simply as the instruments of that sympathy between myself and others which the ardent and unbounded love I cherished for my kind incited me to acquire. I expected all sorts of stupidity and insolent contempt from those.... These compositions (excepting the tragedy of The Cenci, which was written rather to try my powers than to unburden my full heart) are insufficiently.... Commendation then perhaps they deserve, even from their bitterest enemies; but they have not obtained any corresponding popularity. As a man, I shrink from notice and regard: the ebb and flow of the world vexes me: I desire to be left in peace. Persecution, contumely, and calumny, have been heaped upon me in profuse measure; and domestic conspiracy and legal oppression have violated in my person the most sacred rights of nature and humanity. The bigot will say it was the recompense of my errors—the man of the world will call it the result of my imprudence: but never upon one head....
Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic. But a young spirit panting for fame, doubtful of its powers, and certain only of its aspirations, is ill-qualified to assign its true value to the sneer of this world. He knows not that such stuff as this is of the abortive and monstrous births which time consumes as fast as it produces. He sees the truth and falsehood, the merits and demerits, of his case, inextricably entangled.... No personal offence should have drawn from me this public comment upon such stuff.
The offence of this poor victim seems to have consisted solely in his intimacy with Leigh Hunt, Mr. Hazlitt, and some other enemies of despotism and superstition. My friend Hunt has a very hard skull to crack, and will take a deal of killing. I do not know much of Mr. Hazlitt, but....
I knew personally but little of Keats; but, on the news of his situation, I wrote to him, suggesting the propriety of trying the Italian climate, and inviting him to join me. Unfortunately he did not allow me.
* * * * *
And the green paradise which western waves Embosom in their ever-wailing sweep,— Talking of freedom to their tongueless caves, Or to the spirits which within them keep A record of the wrongs which, though they sleep, 5 Die not, but dream of retribution,—heard His hymns, and echoing them from steep to steep, Kept—
* * * * *
And ever as he went he swept a lyre Of unaccustomed shape, and ... strings Now like the ... of impetuous fire Which shakes the forest with its murmurings, Now like the rush of the aerial wings 5 Of the enamoured wind among the treen, Whispering unimaginable things, And dying on the streams of dew serene Which feed the unmown meads with ever-during green.
And then came one of sweet and earnest looks, Whose soft smiles to his dark and night-like eyes Were as the clear and ever-living brooks Are to the obscure fountains whence they rise, Showing how pure they are: a paradise 5 Of happy truth upon his forehead low Lay, making wisdom lovely, in the guise Of earth-awakening morn upon the brow Of star-deserted heaven while ocean gleams below.
His song, though very sweet, was low and faint, A simple strain.
* * * * *
A mighty Phantasm, half concealed In darkness of his own exceeding light, Which clothed his awful presence unrevealed, Charioted on the ... night Of thunder-smoke, whose skirts were chrysolite. 5
And like a sudden meteor which outstrips The splendour-winged chariot of the sun, ... eclipse The armies of the golden stars, each one Pavilioned in its tent of light—all strewn 5 Over the chasms of blue night—
Line 1. Adonais. There is nothing to show positively why Shelley adopted the name Adonais as a suitable Hellenic name for John Keats. I have already suggested (p. 59) that he may perhaps have wished to indicate, in this indirect way, that his poem was founded partly upon the Elegy of Bion for Adonis. I believe the name Adonais was not really in use among the Greeks, and is not anywhere traceable in classical Grecian literature. It has sometimes been regarded as a Doricized form of the name Adonis: Mr. William Cory says that it is not this, but would properly be a female form of the same name. Dr. Furnivall has suggested to me that Adonais is 'Shelley's variant of Adonias, the women's yearly mourning for Adonis.' Disregarding details, we may perhaps say that the whole subject of his Elegy is treated by Shelley as a transposition of the lament, as conceived by Bion, of the Cyprian Aphrodite for Adonis; and that, as he changes the Cyprian into the Uranian Aphrodite, so he changes the dead youth from Adonis into Adonais.
1. 4. Motto from the poet Plato. This motto has been translated by Shelley himself as follows:
'Thou wert the morning star among the living, Ere thy fair light had fled:— Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving New splendour to the dead.'
1. 8. Motto from Moschus. Translated on p. 66, 'Poison came, Bion,' &c.
1. 13. It is my intention to subjoin to the London edition of this poem a criticism, &c. As to the non-fulfilment of this intention see p. 31.
1. 16. My known repugnance ... proves at least. In the Pisa edition the word is printed 'prove' (not 'proves'). Shelley was far from being an exact writer in matters of this sort.
1. 21. John Keats died ... in his twenty-fourth year, on the [23rd] of [February] 1821. Keats, at the time of his death, was not really in his twenty-fourth, but in his twenty-sixth year: the date of his birth was 31 October, 1795. In the Pisa edition of Adonais the date of death is given thus—'the——of——1821': for Shelley, when he wrote his preface, had no precise knowledge of the facts. In some later editions, 'the 27th of December 1820' was erroneously substituted. Shelley's mistake in supposing that Keats, in 1821, was aged only twenty-three, may be taken into account in estimating his previous observation, 'I consider the fragment of Hyperion as second to nothing that was ever produced by a writer of the same years.' Keats, writing in August, 1820, had told Shelley (see p. 17) that some of his poems, perhaps including Hyperion, had been written 'above two years' preceding that date. If Shelley supposed that Keats was twenty-three years old at the beginning of 1821, and that Hyperion had been written fully two years prior to August, 1820, he must have accounted that poem to be the product of a youth of twenty, or at most twenty-one, which would indeed be a marvellous instance of precocity. As a matter of fact, Hyperion was written by Keats when in his twenty-fourth year. This diminishes the marvel, but does not make Shelley's comment on the poem any the less correct.
1. 22. Was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the Protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius. As to the burial of the ashes of Shelley himself in a separate portion of the same cemetery, see p. 23. Shelley lies nearer than Keats to the pyramid of C. Cestius.
1. 33. The savage criticism on his Endymion which appeared in the Quarterly Review. As to this matter see the prefatory Memoirs of Shelley and of Keats, and especially, at p. 39 &c., a transcript of the criticism.
1. 35. The agitation thus originated ended in the rupture of a blood vessel in the lungs. See pp. 27 and 37, The Quarterly critique was published in September 1818, and the first rupture of a blood-vessel occurred in February 1820. Whether the mortification felt by Keats at the critique was small (as is now generally opined) or great (as Shelley thought), it cannot reasonably be propounded that this caused, or resulted in, the rupture of the pulmonary blood-vessel. Keats belonged to a consumptive family; his mother died of consumption, and also his younger brother: and the preliminaries of his mortal illness (even if we do not date them farther back, for which some reason appears) began towards the middle of July 1818, when, in very rough walking in the Island of Mull, he caught a severe and persistent attack of sore throat.
1. 37. The succeeding acknowledgments, from more candid critics, of the true greatness of his powers. The notice here principally referred to is probably that which appeared in the Edinburgh Review in August 1820, written by Lord Jeffrey.
1. 42. Whether the poisoned shaft lights on a heart made callous by many blows. Shelley, in this expression, has no doubt himself in view. He had had serious reason for complaining of the treatment meted out to him by the Quarterly Review: see the opening (partially cited at p. 17) of his draft-letter to the Editor.
1. 44. One of their associates is, to my knowledge, a most base and unprincipled calumniator. Shelley here refers to the writer of the critique in the Quarterly Review of his poem Laon and Cythna (The Revolt of Islam). At first he supposed the writer to be Southey; afterwards, the Rev. Mr. (Dean) Milman. His indignant phrase is therefore levelled at Milman. But Shelley was mistaken, for the article was in fact written by Mr. (afterwards Judge) Coleridge.
1. 46. Those who had celebrated with various degrees of complacency and panegyric Paris, and Woman, and A Syrian Tale, and Mrs. Lefanu, and Mr. Barrett, and Mr. Howard Payne. I presume that most readers of the present day are in the same position as I was myself—that of knowing nothing about these performances and their authors. In order to understand Shelley's allusion, I looked up the Quarterly Review from April 1817 to April 1821, and have ascertained as follows, (1) The Quarterly of April 1817 contains a notice of Paris in 1815, a Poem. The author's name is not given, nor do I know it. The poem, numbering about a thousand lines, is in the Spenserian stanza, varied by the heroic metre, and perhaps by some other rhythms. Numerous extracts are given, sufficient to show that the poem is at any rate a creditable piece of writing. Some of the critical dicta are the following:—'The work of a powerful and poetic imagination.... The subject of the poem is a desultory walk through Paris, in which the author observes, with very little regularity but—with great force, on the different objects which present themselves.... Sketching with the hand of a master.... In a strain of poetry and pathos which we have seldom seen equalled.... An admirable mirable poet.' (2) Woman is a poem by the Mr. Barrett whom Shelley names, termed on the title-page 'the Author of The Heroine.' It was noticed in the Quarterly for April 1818, the very same number which contained the sneering critique of Endymion. This poem is written in the heroic metre; and the extracts given do certainly comprise some telling and felicitous lines. Such are—
'The beautiful rebuke that looks surprise. The gentle vengeance of averted eyes;'
also (a line which has borne, and may yet bear, frequent re-quoting)
'Last at his cross, and earliest at his grave.'
For critical utterances we have the ensuing:—'A strain of patriotism pure, ardent, and even sublime.... Versification combining conciseness and strength with a considerable degree of harmony.... Both talent and genius.... Some passages of it, and those not a few, are of the first order of the pathetic and descriptive.' (3) A Syrian Tale. Of this book I have failed to find any trace in the Quarterly Review, or in the Catalogue of the British Museum. (4) Mrs. Lefanu. Neither can I trace this lady in the Quarterly. Mrs. Alicia Lefanu, who is stated to have been a sister of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and also her daughter, Miss Alicia Lefanu, published books during the lifetime of Shelley. The former printed The Flowers, a Fairy Tale, 1810, and The Sons of Erin, a Comedy, 1812. To the latter various works are assigned, such as Rosard's Chain, a Poem. (5) Mr. John Howard Payne was author of Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin, an Historical Tragedy, criticized in the Quarterly for April, 1820. I cannot understand why Shelley should have supposed this criticism to be laudatory: it is in fact unmixed censure. As thus:—'He appears to us to have no one quality which we should require in a tragic poet.... We cannot find in the whole play a single character finely conceived or rightly sustained, a single incident well managed, a single speech—nay a single sentence—of good poetry.' It is true that the same article which reviews Payne's Brutus notices also, and with more indulgence, Sheil's Evadne: possibly Shelley glanced at the article very cursorily, and fancied that any eulogistic phrases which he found in it applied to Payne.
1. 51. A parallel between the Rev. Mr. Milman and Lord Byron. I have not succeeded in finding this parallel. The Quarterly Review for July 1818 contains a critique of Milman's poem, Samor, Lord of the Bright City; and the number for May 1820, a critique of Milman's Fall of Jerusalem. Neither of these notices draws any parallel such as Shelley speaks of.
1. 52. What gnat did they strain at here. The word 'here' will be perceived to mean 'in Endymion,' or 'in reference to Endymion'; but it is rather far separated from its right antecedent.
1. 59. The circumstances of the closing scene of poor Keats's life were not made known to me until the Elegy was ready for the press. See p. 22.
1. 63. The poor fellow seems to have been hooted from the stage of life, no less by those on whom he had wasted the promise of his genius than those on whom he had lavished his fortune and his care. This statement of Shelley is certainly founded upon a passage in the letter (see p. 22) addressed by Colonel Finch to Mr. Gisborne. Colonel Finch said that Keats had reached Italy, 'nursing a deeply rooted disgust to life and to the world, owing to having been infamously treated by the very persons whom his generosity had rescued from want and woe.' The Colonel's statement seems (as I have previously intimated) to be rather haphazard; and Shelley's recast of it goes to a further extreme.
1. 68. 'Almost risked his own life' &c. The substance of the words in inverted commas is contained in Colonel Finch's letter, but Shelley does not cite verbatim.
* * * * *
Stanza 1, 1. 1. I weep for Adonais—he is dead. Modelled on the opening of Bion's Elegy for Adonis. See p. 63.
1. 3. The frost which binds so dear a head: sc. the frost of death.
11. 4, 5. And thou, sad Hour,... rouse thy obscure compeers. The compeers are clearly the other Hours. Why they should be termed 'obscure' is not quite manifest. Perhaps Shelley means that the weal or woe attaching to these Hours is obscure or uncertain; or perhaps that they are comparatively obscure, undistinguished, as not being marked by any such conspicuous event as the death of Adonais.
11. 8, 9. His fate and fame shall be An echo and a light unto eternity. By 'eternity' we may here understand, not absolute eternity as contradistinguished from time, but an indefinite space of time, the years and the centuries. His fate and fame shall be echoed on from age to age, and shall be a light thereto.
Stanza 2, 1. 1. Where wert thou, mighty Mother. Aphrodite Urania. See pp. 51, 52. Shelley constantly uses the form 'wert' instead of 'wast.' This phrase may be modelled upon two lines near the opening of Milton's Lycidas—
'Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas?'
1. 2. The shaft which flies In darkness. As Adonis was mortally wounded by a boar's tusk, so (it is here represented) was Adonais slain by an insidiously or murderously launched dart: see p. 49. The allusion is to the truculent attack made upon Keats by the Quarterly Review. It is true that 'the shaft which flies in darkness' might be understood in merely a general sense, as the mysterious and unforeseen arrow of Death: but I think it clear that Shelley used the phrase in a more special sense.
1. 4. With veiled eyes, &c. Urania is represented as seated in her paradise (pleasure-ground, garden-bower), with veiled eyes— downward-lidded, as in slumber: an Echo chaunts or recites the 'melodies,' or poems, which Adonais had composed while Death was rapidly advancing towards him: Urania is surrounded by other Echoes, who hearken, and repeat the strain. A hostile reviewer might have been expected to indulge in one of the most familiar of cheap jokes, and to say that Urania had naturally fallen asleep over Keats's poems: but I am not aware that any critic of Adonais did actually say this. The phrase, 'one with soft enamoured breath,' means 'one of the Echoes'; this is shown in stanza 22, 'all the Echoes whom their sister's song.'
Stanza 3, 11. 6, 7. For he is gone where all things wise and fair Descend. Founded on Bion (p. 64), 'Persephone,... all lovely things drift down to thee.'
1. 7, The amorous deep. The depth of earth, or region of the dead; amorous, because, having once obtained possession of Adonais, it retains him in a close embrace, and will not restore him to the land of the living. This passage has a certain analogy to that of Bion (p. 65), 'Not that he is loth to hear, but that the maiden of Hades will not let him go.'
Stanza 4, 1. 1. Most musical of mourners. This phrase, applying to Urania, is one of those which might seem to favour the assumption that the deity here spoken of is the Muse Urania, and not Aphrodite Urania, But on this point see pp. 50 to 52.
1. 1. Weep again. The poem seems to indicate that Urania, slumbering, is not yet aware of the death of Adonais. Therefore she cannot as yet have wept for his death: but she may have wept in anticipation that he would shortly die, and thus can be now adjured to 'weep again.' (See also p. 143.)
1. 2. He died. Milton.
1. 4. When his country's pride, &c. Construe: When the priest, the slave, and the liberticide, trampled his country's pride, and mocked [it] with many a loathed rite of lust and blood. This of course refers to the condition of public affairs and of court-life in the reign of Charles II. The inversion in this passage is not a very serious one, although, for the sense, slightly embarrassing. Occasionally Shelley conceded to himself great latitude in inversion: as for instance in the Revolt of Islam, canto 3, st. 34,
'And the swift boat the little waves which bore Were cut by its keen keel, though slantingly,'
which means 'And the little waves, which bore the swift boat, were cut,' &c.; also in the Ode to Naples, strophe 4,
'Florence, beneath the sun, Of cities fairest one, Blushes within her bower for Freedom's expectation.'
1. 8. His clear sprite. To substitute the word 'sprite' for 'spirit,' in an elevated passage referring to Milton, appears to me one of the least tolerable instances of make-rhyme in the whole range of English poetry. 'Sprite' is a trivial and distorted misformation of 'spirit'; and can only, I apprehend, be used with some propriety (at any rate, in modern poetry) in a more or less bantering sense. The tricksy elf Puck may be a sprite, or even the fantastic creation Ariel; but neither Milton's Satan nor Milton's Ithuriel, nor surely Milton himself, could possibly be a sprite, while the limits of language and of common sense are observed.
1. 9. The third among the Sons of Light. At first sight this phrase might seem to mean 'the third-greatest poet of the world': in which case one might suppose Homer and Shakespear to be ranked as the first and second. But it may be regarded as tolerably clear that Shelley is here thinking only of epic poets; and that he ranges the epic poets according to a criterion of his own, which is thus expressed in his Defence of Poetry (written in the same year as Adonais, 1821): 'Homer was the first and Dante the second epic poet; that is, the second poet the series of whose creations bore a defined and intelligible relation to the knowledge and sentiment and religion of the age in which he lived, and of the ages which followed it—developing itself in correspondence with their development....Milton was the third epic poet.' The poets whom Shelley admired most were probably Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Lucretius, Dante, Shakespear, and Milton; he took high delight in the Book of Job, and presumably in some other poetical books of the Old Testament; Calderon also he prized greatly; and in his own time Goethe, Byron, and (on some grounds) Wordsworth and Coleridge.
Stanza 5, 1. 2. Not all to that bright station dared to climb. The conception embodied in the diction of this stanza is not quite so clear as might be wished. The first statement seems to amount to this—That some poets, true poets though they were, did not aspire so high, nor were capable of reaching so high, as Homer, Dante, and Milton, the typical epic poets. A statement so obviously true that it hardly extends, in itself, beyond a truism. But it must be read as introductory to what follows.
1. 3. And happier they their happiness who knew. Clearly a recast of the phrase of Vergil,
'O fortunati nimium sua si bona norint Agricolae.'
But Vergil speaks of men who did not adequately appreciate their own happiness; Shelley (apparently) of others who did so. He seems to intimate that the poetical temperament is a happy one, in the case of those poets who, unconcerned with the greatest ideas and the most arduous schemes of work, pour forth their 'native wood-notes wild.' I think it possible however that Shelley intended, his phrase to be accepted with the same meaning as Vergil's—'happier they, supposing they had known their happiness.' In that case, the only reason implied why these minor poets were the happier is that their works have endured the longer.
11. 4, 5. Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time In which suns perished. Shelley here appears to say that the minor poets have left works which survive, while some of the works of the very greatest poets have disappeared: as, for instance, his own lyrical models in Adonais, Bion and Moschus, are still known by their writings, while many of the master-pieces of Aeschylus and Sophocles are lost. Some tapers continue to burn; while some suns have perished.
11. 5-7. Others more sublime, Struck by the envious wrath of man or God, Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime. These others include Keats (Adonais) himself, to whom the phrase, 'struck by the envious wrath of man,' may be understood as more peculiarly appropriated. And generally the 'others' may be regarded as nearly identical with 'the inheritors of unfulfilled renown' who appear (some of them pointed out by name) in stanza 45. The word God is printed in the Pisan edition with a capital letter: it may be questioned whether Shelley meant to indicate anything more definite than 'some higher power—Fate.'
11. 8, 9. And some yet live, treading the thorny road Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode. Byron must be supposed to be the foremost among these; also Wordsworth and Coleridge; and doubtless Shelley himself should not he omitted.
Stanza 6, 1. 2. The nursling of thy widowhood. As to this expression see p. 51. I was there speaking only of the Muse Urania; but the observations are equally applicable to Aphrodite Urania, and I am unable to carry the argument any further.
11. 3, 4. Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherished, And fed with true love tears instead of dew. It seems sufficiently clear that Shelley is here glancing at a leading incident in Keats's poem of Isabella, or the Pot of Basil, founded upon a story in Boccaccio's Decameron. Isabella unburies her murdered lover Lorenzo; preserves his head in a pot of basil; and (as expressed in st. 52 of the poem)
'Hung over her sweet basil evermore, And moistened it with tears unto the core.'
I give Shelley's words 'true love tears' as they appear in the Pisan edition: 'true-love tears' might be preferable.
1. 9. The broken lily lies—the storm is overpast. As much as to say: the storm came, and shattered the lily; the storm has now passed away, but the lily will never revive.
Stanza 7, 1. i. To that high Capital where kingly Death, &c. The Capital is Rome (where Keats died). Death is figured as the King of Rome, who there 'keeps his pale court in beauty and decay,'—amid the beauties of nature and art, and amid the decay of monuments and institutions.
11. 3, 4. And bought, with price of purest breath, A grave among the eternal. Keats, dying in Rome, secured sepulture among the many illustrious persons who are there buried. This seems to be the only meaning of 'the eternal' in the present passage: the term does not directly imply (what is sufficiently enforced elsewhere) Keats's own poetic immortality.
1. 4. Come away! This call is addressed in fancy to any persons present in the chamber of death. They remain indefinite both to the poet and to the reader. The conclusion of the stanza, worded with great beauty and delicacy, amounts substantially to saying—'Take your last look of the dead Adonais while he may still seem to the eye to be rather sleeping than dead.'
1. 7. He lies as if in dewy sleep he lay. See Bion (p. 64), 'Beautiful in death, as one that hath fallen on sleep.' The term 'dewy sleep' means probably 'sleep which refreshes the body as nightly dew refreshes the fields.' This phrase is followed by the kindred expression 'liquid rest.'
Stanza 8, 1. 3. The shadow of white Death, &c. The use of 'his' and 'her' in this stanza is not wholly free from ambiguity. In st. 7 Death was a male impersonation—'kingly Death' who 'keeps his pale court.' It may be assumed that he is the same in the present stanza. Corruption, on the other hand, is a female impersonation: she (not Death) must be the same as 'the eternal Hunger,' as to whom it is said that 'pity and awe soothe her pale rage.' Premising this, we read:—'Within the twilight chamber spreads apace the shadow of white Death, and at the door invisible Corruption waits to trace his [Adonais's] extreme way to her [Corruption's] dim dwelling-place; the eternal Hunger [Corruption] sits [at the door], but pity and awe soothe her pale rage, nor dares she,' &c. The unwonted phrase 'his extreme way' seems to differ in meaning little if at all from the very ordinary term 'his last journey.' The statement in this stanza therefore is that corruption does not assail Adonais lying on his deathbed; but will shortly follow his remains to the grave, the dim [obscure, lightless] abode of corruption itself.
11. 8, 9. Till darkness and the law Of change shall o'er his sleep the mortal curtain draw. Until the darkness of the grave and the universal law of change and dissolution shall draw the curtain of death over his sleep—shall prove his apparent sleep to be veritable death. The prolonged interchange in Adonais between the ideas of death and of sleep may remind us that Shelley opened with a similar contrast or approximation his first considerable (though in part immature) poem Queen Mab—