Adonais Shelley Poem Analysis Essay


       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,

       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, pierc'd by the shaft which flies

       In darkness? where was lorn Urania

       When Adonais died? With veiled eyes,

       'Mid listening Echoes, in her Paradise

       She sate, while one, with soft enamour'd breath,

       Rekindled all the fading melodies,

       With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneath,

He had adorn'd 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;

       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,

       Trampled and mock'd 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 dar'd to climb;

       And happier they their happiness who knew,

       Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time

       In which suns perish'd; others more sublime,

       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 perish'd,

       The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew,

       Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherish'd,

       And fed with true-love tears, instead of dew;

       Most musical of mourners, weep anew!

       Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,

       The bloom, whose petals nipp'd 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

       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;

       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—

       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

       A tear some Dream has loosen'd from his brain."

       Lost Angel of a ruin'd 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

       Wash'd his light limbs as if embalming them;

       Another clipp'd her profuse locks, and threw

       The wreath upon him, like an anadem,

       Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem;

       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

       Quench'd its caress upon his icy lips;

       And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath

       Of moonlight vapour, which the cold night clips,

It flush'd through his pale limbs, and pass'd to its eclipse.


       And others came . . . Desires and Adorations,

       Winged Persuasions and veil'd Destinies,

       Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations

       Of hopes and fears, and twilight Phantasies;

       And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,

       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 lov'd, 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,

       Dimm'd the aëreal eyes that kindle day;

       Afar the melancholy thunder moan'd,

       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 remember'd lay,

       And will no more reply to winds or fountains,

       Or amorous birds perch'd on the young green spray,

       Or herdsman's horn, or bell at closing day;

       Since she can mimic not his lips, more dear

       Than those for whose disdain she pin'd 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 wak'd the sullen year?

       To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear

       Nor to himself Narcissus, as to both

       Thou, Adonais: wan they stand and sere

       Amid the faint companions of their youth,

With dew all turn'd 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 youth with morning, doth complain,

       Soaring and screaming round her empty nest,

       As Albion wails for thee: the curse of Cain

       Light on his head who pierc'd thy innocent breast,

And scar'd 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 reappear;

       Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Seasons' bier;

       The amorous birds now pair in every brake,

       And build their mossy homes in field and brere;

       And the green lizard, and the golden snake,

Like unimprison'd 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 dawn'd on Chaos; in its stream immers'd,

       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, touch'd by this spirit tender,

       Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath;

       Like incarnations of the stars, when splendour

       Is chang'd to fragrance, they illumine death

       And mock the merry worm that wakes beneath;

       Nought we know, dies. Shall that alone which knows

       Be as a sword consum'd before the sheath

       By sightless lightning?—the intense atom glows

A moment, then is quench'd in a most cold repose.


       Alas! that all we lov'd 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

       Meet mass'd 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 watch'd Urania's eyes,

       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

       So struck, so rous'd, so rapt Urania;

       So sadden'd 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:

       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,

Pav'd with eternal flowers that undeserving way.


       In the death-chamber for a moment Death,

       Sham'd by the presence of that living Might,

       Blush'd to annihilation, and the breath

       Revisited those lips, and Life's pale light

       Flash'd through those limbs, so late her dear delight.

       "Leave me not wild and drear and comfortless,

       As silent lightning leaves the starless night!

       Leave me not!" cried Urania: her distress

Rous'd Death: Death rose and smil'd, 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,

       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 chain'd 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 unpastur'd dragon in his den?

       Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then

       Wisdom the mirror'd shield, or scorn the spear?

       Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when

       Thy spirit should have fill'd 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,

       When, like Apollo, from his golden bow

       The Pythian of the age one arrow sped

       And smil'd! 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 gather'd into death without a dawn,

       And the immortal stars awake again;

       So is it in the world of living men:

       A godlike mind soars forth, in its delight

       Making earth bare and veiling heaven, and when

       It sinks, the swarms that dimm'd or shar'd its light

Leave to its kindred lamps the spirit's awful night."


       Thus ceas'd 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,

       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 gaz'd on Nature's naked loveliness,

       Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray

       With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness,

       And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,

Pursu'd, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.


       A pardlike Spirit beautiful and swift—

       A Love in desolation mask'd—a Power

       Girt round with weakness—it can scarce uplift

       The weight of the superincumbent hour;

       It is a dying lamp, a falling shower,

       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 topp'd with a cypress cone,

       Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew

       Yet dripping with the forest's noonday dew,

       Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart

       Shook the weak hand that grasp'd it; of that crew

       He came the last, neglected and apart;

A herd-abandon'd deer struck by the hunter's dart.


       All stood aloof, and at his partial moan

       Smil'd 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 sung new sorrow; sad Urania scann'd

       The Stranger's mien, and murmur'd: "Who art thou?"

       He answer'd not, but with a sudden hand

       Made bare his branded and ensanguin'd brow,

Which was like Cain's or Christ's—oh! that it should be so!


       What softer voice is hush'd 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?

       If it be He, who, gentlest of the wise,

       Taught, sooth'd, lov'd, honour'd 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

       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 remember'd name!

       But be thyself, and know thyself to be!

       And ever at thy season be thou free

       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

       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 awaken'd 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

       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 outsoar'd 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

       He is secure, and now can never mourn

       A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain;

       Nor, when the spirit's self has ceas'd 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!

       Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air,

       Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown

       O'er the abandon'd Earth, now leave it bare

Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!


Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc., also spelled Adonaies, is a pastoral elegy written by Percy Bysshe Shelley for John Keats in 1821, and widely regarded as one of Shelley's best and most well-known works.[1] The poem, which is in 495 lines in 55 Spenserian stanzas, was composed in the spring of 1821 immediately after 11 April, when Shelley heard of Keats' death (seven weeks earlier). It is a pastoral elegy, in the English tradition of John Milton's Lycidas.[1] Shelley had studied and translated classical elegies. The title of the poem is modelled on ancient works, such as Achilleïs (a poem about Achilles), an epic poem by the 1st century CE Roman poet, Statius, and refers to the untimely death of the GreekAdonis, a god of fertility. Some critics suggest that Shelley used Virgil's tenth Eclogue, in praise of Cornelius Gallus, as a model.

It was published by Charles Ollier in July 1821 (see 1821 in poetry) with a preface in which Shelley made the mistaken assertion that Keats had died from a rupture of the lung induced by rage at the unfairly harsh reviews of his verse in the Quarterly Review and other journals.[2] He also thanked Joseph Severn for caring for Keats in Rome. This praise increased literary interest in Severn's works.

Shelley was introduced to Keats in Hampstead towards the end of 1816 by their mutual friend, Leigh Hunt, who was to transfer his enthusiasm from Keats to Shelley. Shelley's huge admiration of Keats was not entirely reciprocated. Keats had reservations about Shelley's dissolute behaviour, and found some of Shelley's advice patronising (the suggestion, for example, that Keats should not publish his early work). It is also possible that Keats resented Hunt's transferred allegiance. Despite this, the two poets exchanged letters when Shelley and his wife moved to Italy. When Keats fell ill, the Shelleys invited him to stay with them in Pisa but Keats elected to travel with Severn. Despite this rebuff, Shelley's affection for Keats remained undimmed until his death in 1822 when a copy of Keats' works was found in a pocket on his drowned body. Shelley said of Keats, after inviting him to stay with him in Pisa after Keats fell ill: "I am aware indeed that I am nourishing a rival who will far surpass me and this is an additional motive & will be an added pleasure."[3]

Shelley regarded Adonais as the "least imperfect" of his works. In a 5 June 1821 letter to John and Maria Gisborne, Shelley wrote about the work: "It is a highly wrought piece of art, perhaps better in point of composition than anything I have written."[4]


The poet weeps for John Keats who is dead and who will be long mourned. He calls on Urania to mourn for Keats who died in Rome (sts. 1–VII). The poet summons the subject matter of Keats' poetry to weep for him. It comes and mourns at his bidding (sts. VIII–XV). Nature, celebrated by Keats in his poetry, mourns him. Spring, which brings nature to new life, cannot restore him (sts. XVI–XXI). Urania rises, goes to Keats' death chamber and laments that she cannot join him in death (sts. XXII–XXIX). Fellow poets mourn the death of Keats: Byron, Thomas Moore, Shelley, and Leigh Hunt (sts. XXX–XXXV). The anonymous Quarterly Review critic is blamed for Keats' death and chastised (sts. XXXVI–XXXVII).

The poet urges the mourners not to weep any longer. Keats has become a portion of the eternal and is free from the attacks of reviewers. He is not dead; it is the living who are dead. He has gone where "envy and calumny and hate and pain" cannot reach him. He is "made one with Nature." His being has been withdrawn into the one Spirit which is responsible for all beauty. In eternity, other poets, among them Thomas Chatterton, Sir Philip Sidney, and the Roman poet Lucan, come to greet him (sts. XXXVIII–XLVI). Let anyone who still mourns Keats send his "spirit's light" beyond space and be filled with hope, or let him go to Rome where Keats is buried. Let him "Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb. / What Adonais is, why fear we to become?" He is with the unchanging Spirit, Intellectual Beauty, or Love in heaven. By comparison with the clear light of eternity, life is a stain (sts. XLVII–LII).

The poet tells himself he should now depart from life, which has nothing left to offer. The One, which is Light, Beauty, Benediction, and Love, now shines on him. He feels carried "darkly, fearfully, afar" to where the soul of Keats glows like a star, in the dwelling where those who will live forever are (sts. LIII–LV).


Stanzas 1–35

Adonais begins with the announcement of his death and the mourning that followed: "I weep for Adonais—he is dead!" In Stanzas 2 through 35 a series of mourners lament the death of Adonais. The mother of Adonais, Urania, is invoked to arise to conduct the ceremony at his bier. The allusion is to Urania, the goddess of astronomy, and to the goddess Venus, who is also known as Venus Urania.

The over-riding theme is one of despair. Mourners are implored to "weep for Adonais—he is dead!" In Stanza 9 the "flocks" of the deceased appear, representing his dreams and inspirations. In Stanza 13, the personifications of the thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and skills of the deceased appear. In Stanza 22, Urania is awakened by the grief of Misery and the poet. The lament is invoked: "He will awake no more, oh, never more!" Urania pleads in vain for Adonais to awake and to arise.

In Stanzas 30 through 34, a series of human mourners appears. The "Pilgrim of Eternity" is Lord Byron, George Gordon, who had met and was a friend of Shelley's but who had never met Keats. The Irish poet Thomas Moore then appears who laments the sadness and loss that time causes. Shelley himself and Leigh Hunt are also part of the "procession of mourners". In Stanzas 31 through 34 the mourner is described as "one frail Form" who has "fled astray," "his branded and ensanguined brow," a brow "like Cain’s or Christ’s."

Stanzas 36–55

The sense of despair and hopelessness continues. In Stanza 37 the poet muses over a just punishment for the "nameless worm" and "noteless blot" who is the anonymous (now known to be John Wilson Croker, not the editor, William Gifford) and highly critical reviewer of Keats's Endymion (1818), who, in Shelley's opinion, traumatised John Keats, worsening his condition. The worst punishment that Shelley can contrive is that such a scoundrel should live: "Live thou, whose infamy is not thy fame!/ Live!" Faced with the contradiction that he would wish a long life upon the miscreant who took his hero’s life, in stanza 38 the poet bursts open the gates of consolation that are required of the pastoral elegy: "Nor let us weep that our delight is fled/ Far from these carrion kites." In stanzas 45 and 46, Shelley laments that—like Thomas Chatterton, Sir Philip Sidney, and Lucan—Keats died young and did not live to develop as a poet . Keats transcends human life and has been unified with the immortal: "He has outsoared the shadow of our night;/Envy and calumny and hate and pain,/ ... Can touch him not and torture not again.... He is made one with Nature." Keats is as one with Nature, the Power, the One, and the one Spirit.

Adonais "is not dead .../ He hath awakened from the dream of life." "Who mourns for Adonais?" he asks in stanza 47. Shelley turns his grief from Adonais to "we" who must live on and "decay/ Like corpses in a charnel," and after a series of stanzas (39–49) in which he celebrates the richer and fuller life that Adonais must now be experiencing, the poet becomes mindful that he is in Rome, itself a city rife with visible records of loss and decay. Moreover, he is in the Protestant cemetery there, where Shelley’s three-year-old son is buried as well; and yet, as if mocking all despair, a "light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread." Nature does not abhor death and decay, he sees; it is humans, who fear and hate in the midst of life, who do. "What Adonais is, why fear we to become?" he asks in stanza 51.

It is life’s worldly cares—that obscuring and distracting "dome of many-coloured glass"—not Death that is the enemy and the source of human despair. "Follow where all is fled," he urges, and he goads his own heart into having the courage to face not extinction but "that Light whose smile kindles the Universe." The poem concludes by imagining Adonais to be a part of "the white radiance of Eternity." At the end of the elegy, "like a star," the soul of the dead poet "Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are."

The section on Rome (stanzas 48–52) is significant in the poem not only because Keats and Shelley's son are buried in the Protestant cemetery there but also because the section offers an alternative way of understanding themes already expressed in the poem. Beginning with a statement of alternativeness ("Or go to Rome"), the section provides an alternative way for the continuing mourner to imagine Adonais as part of the World Soul and so cease mourning. To imagine this by means of the conceptual exercise prescribed in stanza 47 may be too difficult for the mourner, who may not be able to imagine omnipresence—presence at the same time throughout the whole of space as well as at each individual point in space—but who would be able to imagine eternality—presence in the same place throughout the whole of time or of history. This latter concept is embodied in the idea of Rome as the "Eternal" city. Since both Rome and the particular cemetery symbolize (through the imagery used) the dominance of eternity, the mourner can doubly conceive of Keats as part of eternity—as absorbed into it and diffused throughout it—and thus conceive of him as part of the World Soul, among whose aspects is eternity as well as omnipresence.

In addition, the description of Keats's spirit as part of "Eternal" Rome shows parallels with the earlier description, in stanzas 44-46, of his spirit becoming part of the "firmament" of eternal stars which are the immortal spirits of great poets. And in stanza 52, as "The One" is to the "many" and "heaven's light" is to "Earth's shadows" and the "white radiance of Eternity" is to multicolored Life, so "The glory" of the World Soul is to aspects of Rome that represent death but symbolize eternity. By means of these parallels, the Rome section becomes fully integrated into the poem.[5]

Notable performances[edit]

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones read a part of Adonais at the Brian Jones memorial concert at London's Hyde Park on 5 July 1969. Jones, founder and guitarist of the Stones, had drowned 3 July 1969 in his swimming pool. Before an audience estimated at 250,000 to 300,000, Jagger read the following verses from Adonais:[6]

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
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.

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever 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,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled!

Actor Vincent Price read Adonais on a Caedmon Records recording which was released, originally in 1956, as an LP record and a cassette recording, Caedmon CPN 1059 and TC 1059. The recording was re-released in 1996.[7]

The English rock band The Cure has recorded a song entitled "Adonais" based on the Shelley elegy as a B-side single and on the collection Join The Dots: B Sides and Rarities, 1978–2001 (2004). "Adonais" was originally the B-side to "The 13th", released in 1996.[8]

Star Trek episode[edit]

The title of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" (1967) is an allusion to the Shelley elegy, Stanza 47, line 415. A 2013 fan produced sequel, "Pilgrim of Eternity", continued the allusion, by using the title given to Byron in the poem.



  • "Percy Shelley: Adonais", John Keats (12 February 2004). Retrieved 30 June 2005.
  • Sandy, Mark. 'Adonais (1821)', The Literary Encyclopaedia (20 September 2002). Retrieved 30 June 2005.
  • Beatty, Bernard. "The Transformation of Discourse: Epipsychidion, Adonais, and some lyrics". In: Essays on Shelley, ed. Miriam Allott. Liverpool University Press, 1982.
  • Becht, Ronald E. "Shelley's Adonais: Formal Design and the Lyric Speaker's Crisis of Imagination". Studies in Philology, Vol. 78, No. 2 (Spring, 1981), pp. 194–210.
  • Bertoneche, Caroline. "From Poet to Poet or Shelley’s Inconsistencies in Keats’s Panegyric: Adonais as an Autobiographical Work of Art", 15 June 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  • Brigham, Linda C. (1999). "Disciplinary Hybridity in Shelley's Adonais." Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 32.
  • Epstein, Andrew. (1999). "'Flowers that Mock the Corse Beneath': Shelley's Adonais, Keats, and Poetic Influence." KSJ, 48, pp. 90–128.
  • Everest, Kelvin. (2007). "Shelley's Adonais and John Keats." Essays in Criticism, 57(3), pp. 237–264.
  • Heffernan, James A. W. "Adonais: Shelley's Consumption of Keats." Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 23, No. 3, Percy Bysshe Shelley (Fall, 1984), pp. 295–315.
  • MacEachen, Dougald B. CliffsNotes on Shelley's Poems. 18 July 2011.
  • Mahony, Patrick. J. (1964). "An Analysis of Shelley's Craftsmanship in Adonais." Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900, 4. pp. 555–68.
  • Meirelles, Alexandre. Adonais. Book Review. 26 August 2007.
  • O'Leary, Joseph S. "Plotinus in 'Mont Blanc' and 'Adonais'." Essays on Literary and Theological Themes.
  • Roberts, Charles G.D. Shelley's Adonais and Alastor. NY: Silver, Burdett, 1902.
  • Sacks, Peter. "Last Clouds: A Reading of Adonais." Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 23, No. 3, Percy Bysshe Shelley (Fall, 1984), pp. 379–400.
  • Sharp, Michele Turner. (Summer, 2000). "Mirroring the Future: Adonais, Elegy, and the Life in Letters." Criticism, 42, 3.
  • Silverman, Edwin B. Poetic Synthesis in Shelley's Adonais. The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1972.
  • Ulmer, William A. "Adonais and the Death of Poetry." Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 32, No. 3, Romantic Historicism (Fall, 1993), pp. 425–451.
  • Ward, J.V. (2003). "The Constant Theme of Death in the Works of Keats and Shelley."
  • Weeks, Jerome. "O, weep for Adonais — for he is being adapted by Hollywood." book/daddy, Jerome Weeks on books.

External links[edit]

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poetry collections
Short poems
Long poems
Collaborations with
Mary Shelley
1821 title page, Pisa, Italy.
  1. ^ ab"Percy Shelley: Adonais", John Keats (12 February 2004). Retrieved 30 June 2005.
  2. ^*"Percy Shelley: Adonais", John Keats (12 February 2004). Retrieved 30 June 2005.
  3. ^John Keats: Letters: To Percy Bysshe Shelley, 16 August 1820:
  4. ^Jones, Frederick L., ed. The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley. 2 Vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964.
  5. ^Newell 2011, ch. 5.
  6. ^"The Rolling Stones mourn Brian Jones", The Times of London, 1969.
  7. ^The Vincent Price Exhibit:
  8. ^The Cure: Single: The 13th:

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