Summary of Adonais by Shelley

Adonais Summary | Adonais by Shelley

Adonais by Shelley


Combining aspects drawn from the rich mythic tradition of the West with issues related to death, mourning, and loss Shelley organises his narrative of remembrance in Adonais. Adonais by Shelley is an elegy laments the death of Shelley's contemporary John Keats. It is at the same time a commemorative poem which considers some of the issues associated with Keats' preoccupation as a poet and also brings into reckoning questions of Romantic imagination. The poem portrays the life of the subjects in a manner that is typical of texts in the Western elegiac tradition, but it also demonstrates the priorities of Shelley as a poet and puts on display some of his most firm beliefs. John Keats passed away on the 23rd of February, 1821 at Rome and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery there. Shelley, who was in Italy at that time, had invited Keats to his place in Pisa. The camaraderie between the two and Shelley's respect for his younger contemporary can be gauged by his encomium, evident in the 'Preface' to Adonais. Here he saluted Keats by saying that he was 'among the writers of the highest genius who have adorned our age' Shelley thought it appropriate to use 'Adonais' as the title of this elegy? it alludes to Adonis, the handsome young lover of Venus, who eventually fell to a wild boar? as he tried to draw a parallel between the slaying of Adonis and Keats' untimely demise. In the way Shelley envisaged his poem, the beast is perhaps located in the anonymous reviewer of Keats' Endymion in the Quarterly Review, as Shelley thought that this precipitated Keats' death.

Shelley considered Adonais to be among his best composition and announced so in a latter, saying that it was a 'highly wrought piece of art'. Shelley is consistent pastoral elegy, a tradition that originated in the writings of the Greek Sicilian poets Theocritus, Bion and Moschus. Shelley was fascinated by these writers and their mode of craftmanship as he translated Bion's Lament for Adonis and Moschus' Lament for Bion into English. There are many echoes of these classical texts, especially in the following of the ritualistic patterns and in the verbal resonances. We could consider, for instance, the invocation to the muse, which is both mournful and accusatory; it is also evident in the manner in which Shelley invokes nature, grieving the loss of his celebrated friend.

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Adonais is a statement that introduces many of the preoccupations of Romantic writing, including a response that shows how Shelley leaves his distinctive stamp even as he follows the elegiac tradition. The language of the poem, for instance, grants the emotion and the subject a flow and fluidity characteristic of Shelly's poetic practice. The images are drawn from a variety of sources and display an allegiance to and understanding of Classical literature.   
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