Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats

Original Text: 
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais (1821).
2     Oh, weep for Adonais! though our tears
3     Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!
4     And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years
5     To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,
6     And teach them thine own sorrow, say: "With me
7     Died Adonais; till the Future dares
8     Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
9An echo and a light unto eternity!"
11     When thy Son lay, pierc'd by the shaft which flies
12     In darkness? where was lorn Urania
13     When Adonais died? With veiled eyes,
14     'Mid listening Echoes, in her Paradise
15     She sate, while one, with soft enamour'd breath,
16     Rekindled all the fading melodies,
17     With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneath,
18He had adorn'd and hid the coming bulk of Death.
III
19     Oh, weep for Adonais--he is dead!
20     Wake, melancholy Mother, wake and weep!
21     Yet wherefore? Quench within their burning bed
22     Thy fiery tears, and let thy loud heart keep
23     Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep;
24     For he is gone, where all things wise and fair
25     Descend--oh, dream not that the amorous Deep
26     Will yet restore him to the vital air;
27Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair.
IV
28     Most musical of mourners, weep again!
30     Who was the Sire of an immortal strain,
31     Blind, old and lonely, when his country's pride,
32     The priest, the slave and the liberticide,
33     Trampled and mock'd with many a loathed rite
34     Of lust and blood; he went, unterrified,
35     Into the gulf of death; but his clear Sprite
V
37     Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
38     Not all to that bright station dar'd to climb;
39     And happier they their happiness who knew,
40     Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time
41     In which suns perish'd; others more sublime,
42     Struck by the envious wrath of man or god,
43     Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime;
44     And some yet live, treading the thorny road,
45Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode.
VI
46     But now, thy youngest, dearest one, has perish'd,
47     The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew,
49     And fed with true-love tears, instead of dew;
50     Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
51     Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,
52     The bloom, whose petals nipp'd before they blew
53     Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste;
54The broken lily lies--the storm is overpast.
56     Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay,
57     He came; and bought, with price of purest breath,
58     A grave among the eternal.--Come away!
59     Haste, while the vault of blue Italian day
60     Is yet his fitting charnel-roof! while still
61     He lies, as if in dewy sleep he lay;
62     Awake him not! surely he takes his fill
63Of deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill.
65     Within the twilight chamber spreads apace
66     The shadow of white Death, and at the door
67     Invisible Corruption waits to trace
68     His extreme way to her dim dwelling-place;
69     The eternal Hunger sits, but pity and awe
70     Soothe her pale rage, nor dares she to deface
71     So fair a prey, till darkness and the law
72Of change shall o'er his sleep the mortal curtain draw.
IX
73     Oh, weep for Adonais! The quick Dreams,
74     The passion-winged Ministers of thought,
75     Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams
76     Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught
77     The love which was its music, wander not--
78     Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain,
79     But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot
80     Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain,
81They ne'er will gather strength, or find a home again.
X
82     And one with trembling hands clasps his cold head,
83     And fans him with her moonlight wings, and cries,
84     "Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead;
85     See, on the silken fringe of his faint eyes,
86     Like dew upon a sleeping flower, there lies
87     A tear some Dream has loosen'd from his brain."
88     Lost Angel of a ruin'd Paradise!
89     She knew not 'twas her own; as with no stain
90She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain.
XI
91     One from a lucid urn of starry dew
92     Wash'd his light limbs as if embalming them;
93     Another clipp'd her profuse locks, and threw
94     The wreath upon him, like an anadem,
95     Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem;
96     Another in her wilful grief would break
97     Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem
98     A greater loss with one which was more weak;
99And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek.
XII
100     Another Splendour on his mouth alit,
101     That mouth, whence it was wont to draw the breath
102     Which gave it strength to pierce the guarded wit,
103     And pass into the panting heart beneath
104     With lightning and with music: the damp death
105     Quench'd its caress upon his icy lips;
106     And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath
107     Of moonlight vapour, which the cold night clips,
108It flush'd through his pale limbs, and pass'd to its eclipse.
XIII
109     And others came . . . Desires and Adorations,
110     Winged Persuasions and veil'd Destinies,
111     Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations
112     Of hopes and fears, and twilight Phantasies;
113     And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,
114     And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam
115     Of her own dying smile instead of eyes,
116     Came in slow pomp; the moving pomp might seem
117Like pageantry of mist on an autumnal stream.
XIV
118     All he had lov'd, and moulded into thought,
119     From shape, and hue, and odour, and sweet sound,
120     Lamented Adonais. Morning sought
121     Her eastern watch-tower, and her hair unbound,
122     Wet with the tears which should adorn the ground,
123     Dimm'd the aëreal eyes that kindle day;
124     Afar the melancholy thunder moan'd,
125     Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay,
126And the wild Winds flew round, sobbing in their dismay.
128     And feeds her grief with his remember'd lay,
129     And will no more reply to winds or fountains,
130     Or amorous birds perch'd on the young green spray,
131     Or herdsman's horn, or bell at closing day;
132     Since she can mimic not his lips, more dear
133     Than those for whose disdain she pin'd away
134     Into a shadow of all sounds: a drear
135Murmur, between their songs, is all the woodmen hear.
137     Her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were,
138     Or they dead leaves; since her delight is flown,
139     For whom should she have wak'd the sullen year?
141     Nor to himself Narcissus, as to both
142     Thou, Adonais: wan they stand and sere
143     Amid the faint companions of their youth,
144With dew all turn'd to tears; odour, to sighing ruth.
146     Mourns not her mate with such melodious pain;
148     Heaven, and could nourish in the sun's domain
149     Her mighty youth with morning, doth complain,
150     Soaring and screaming round her empty nest,
151     As Albion wails for thee: the curse of Cain
152     Light on his head who pierc'd thy innocent breast,
153And scar'd the angel soul that was its earthly guest!
155     But grief returns with the revolving year;
156     The airs and streams renew their joyous tone;
157     The ants, the bees, the swallows reappear;
158     Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Seasons' bier;
159     The amorous birds now pair in every brake,
160     And build their mossy homes in field and brere;
161     And the green lizard, and the golden snake,
162Like unimprison'd flames, out of their trance awake.
XIX
163     Through wood and stream and field and hill and Ocean
164     A quickening life from the Earth's heart has burst
165     As it has ever done, with change and motion,
166     From the great morning of the world when first
167     God dawn'd on Chaos; in its stream immers'd,
168     The lamps of Heaven flash with a softer light;
169     All baser things pant with life's sacred thirst;
170     Diffuse themselves; and spend in love's delight,
171The beauty and the joy of their renewed might.
XX
172     The leprous corpse, touch'd by this spirit tender,
173     Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath;
174     Like incarnations of the stars, when splendour
175     Is chang'd to fragrance, they illumine death
176     And mock the merry worm that wakes beneath;
177     Nought we know, dies. Shall that alone which knows
178     Be as a sword consum'd before the sheath
179     By sightless lightning?--the intense atom glows
180A moment, then is quench'd in a most cold repose.
XXI
181     Alas! that all we lov'd of him should be,
182     But for our grief, as if it had not been,
183     And grief itself be mortal! Woe is me!
184     Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene
185     The actors or spectators? Great and mean
186     Meet mass'd in death, who lends what life must borrow.
187     As long as skies are blue, and fields are green,
188     Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow,
189Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow.
XXII
190     He will awake no more, oh, never more!
191     "Wake thou," cried Misery, "childless Mother, rise
192     Out of thy sleep, and slake, in thy heart's core,
193     A wound more fierce than his, with tears and sighs."
194     And all the Dreams that watch'd Urania's eyes,
195     And all the Echoes whom their sister's song
196     Had held in holy silence, cried: "Arise!"
197     Swift as a Thought by the snake Memory stung,
198From her ambrosial rest the fading Splendour sprung.
XXIII
199     She rose like an autumnal Night, that springs
200     Out of the East, and follows wild and drear
201     The golden Day, which, on eternal wings,
202     Even as a ghost abandoning a bier,
203     Had left the Earth a corpse. Sorrow and fear
204     So struck, so rous'd, so rapt Urania;
205     So sadden'd round her like an atmosphere
206     Of stormy mist; so swept her on her way
207Even to the mournful place where Adonais lay.
XXIV
208     Out of her secret Paradise she sped,
209     Through camps and cities rough with stone, and steel,
210     And human hearts, which to her aery tread
211     Yielding not, wounded the invisible
212     Palms of her tender feet where'er they fell:
213     And barbed tongues, and thoughts more sharp than they,
214     Rent the soft Form they never could repel,
215     Whose sacred blood, like the young tears of May,
216Pav'd with eternal flowers that undeserving way.
XXV
217     In the death-chamber for a moment Death,
218     Sham'd by the presence of that living Might,
219     Blush'd to annihilation, and the breath
220     Revisited those lips, and Life's pale light
221     Flash'd through those limbs, so late her dear delight.
222     "Leave me not wild and drear and comfortless,
223     As silent lightning leaves the starless night!
224     Leave me not!" cried Urania: her distress
225Rous'd Death: Death rose and smil'd, and met her vain caress.
XXVI
226     "Stay yet awhile! speak to me once again;
227     Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live;
228     And in my heartless breast and burning brain
229     That word, that kiss, shall all thoughts else survive,
230     With food of saddest memory kept alive,
231     Now thou art dead, as if it were a part
232     Of thee, my Adonais! I would give
233     All that I am to be as thou now art!
XXVII
235     "O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,
236     Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
237     Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
238     Dare the unpastur'd dragon in his den?
239     Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then
240     Wisdom the mirror'd shield, or scorn the spear?
241     Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when
242     Thy spirit should have fill'd its crescent sphere,
243The monsters of life's waste had fled from thee like deer.
XXVIII
244     "The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
245     The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead;
246     The vultures to the conqueror's banner true
247     Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
248     And whose wings rain contagion; how they fled,
249     When, like Apollo, from his golden bow
251     And smil'd! The spoilers tempt no second blow,
252They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low.
XXIX
253     "The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn;
254     He sets, and each ephemeral insect then
255     Is gather'd into death without a dawn,
256     And the immortal stars awake again;
257     So is it in the world of living men:
258     A godlike mind soars forth, in its delight
259     Making earth bare and veiling heaven, and when
260     It sinks, the swarms that dimm'd or shar'd its light
261Leave to its kindred lamps the spirit's awful night."
263     Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent;
265     Over his living head like Heaven is bent,
266     An early but enduring monument,
267     Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song
269     The sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong,
270And Love taught Grief to fall like music from his tongue.
272     A phantom among men; companionless
273     As the last cloud of an expiring storm
274     Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
275     Had gaz'd on Nature's naked loveliness,
277     With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness,
278     And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,
279Pursu'd, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.
XXXII
280     A pardlike Spirit beautiful and swift--
281     A Love in desolation mask'd--a Power
282     Girt round with weakness--it can scarce uplift
283     The weight of the superincumbent hour;
284     It is a dying lamp, a falling shower,
285     A breaking billow; even whilst we speak
286     Is it not broken? On the withering flower
287     The killing sun smiles brightly: on a cheek
288The life can burn in blood, even while the heart may break.
XXXIII
289     His head was bound with pansies overblown,
290     And faded violets, white, and pied, and blue;
292     Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew
293     Yet dripping with the forest's noonday dew,
294     Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart
295     Shook the weak hand that grasp'd it; of that crew
296     He came the last, neglected and apart;
297A herd-abandon'd deer struck by the hunter's dart.
XXXIV
298     All stood aloof, and at his partial moan
299     Smil'd through their tears; well knew that gentle band
300     Who in another's fate now wept his own,
301     As in the accents of an unknown land
302     He sung new sorrow; sad Urania scann'd
303     The Stranger's mien, and murmur'd: "Who art thou?"
304     He answer'd not, but with a sudden hand
305     Made bare his branded and ensanguin'd brow,
306Which was like Cain's or Christ's--oh! that it should be so!
308     Athwart what brow is that dark mantle thrown?
309     What form leans sadly o'er the white death-bed,
310     In mockery of monumental stone,
311     The heavy heart heaving without a moan?
312     If it be He, who, gentlest of the wise,
313     Taught, sooth'd, lov'd, honour'd the departed one,
314     Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs,
315The silence of that heart's accepted sacrifice.
317     What deaf and viperous murderer could crown
318     Life's early cup with such a draught of woe?
319     The nameless worm would now itself disown:
320     It felt, yet could escape, the magic tone
321     Whose prelude held all envy, hate and wrong,
322     But what was howling in one breast alone,
323     Silent with expectation of the song,
324Whose master's hand is cold, whose silver lyre unstrung.
XXXVII
325     Live thou, whose infamy is not thy fame!
326     Live! fear no heavier chastisement from me,
327     Thou noteless blot on a remember'd name!
328     But be thyself, and know thyself to be!
329     And ever at thy season be thou free
330     To spill the venom when thy fangs o'erflow;
331     Remorse and Self-contempt shall cling to thee;
332     Hot Shame shall burn upon thy secret brow,
333And like a beaten hound tremble thou shalt--as now.
XXXVIII
334     Nor let us weep that our delight is fled
335     Far from these carrion kites that scream below;
336     He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead;
337     Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now.
338     Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow
339     Back to the burning fountain whence it came,
340     A portion of the Eternal, which must glow
341     Through time and change, unquenchably the same,
342Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame.
XXXIX
343     Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,
344     He hath awaken'd from the dream of life;
345     'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
346     With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
347     And in mad trance, strike with our spirit's knife
348     Invulnerable nothings. We decay
349     Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
350     Convulse us and consume us day by day,
351And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
XL
352     He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night;
353     Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
354     And that unrest which men miscall delight,
355     Can touch him not and torture not again;
356     From the contagion of the world's slow stain
357     He is secure, and now can never mourn
358     A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain;
359     Nor, when the spirit's self has ceas'd to burn,
360With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.
XLI
361     He lives, he wakes--'tis Death is dead, not he;
362     Mourn not for Adonais. Thou young Dawn,
363     Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
364     The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;
365     Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!
366     Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air,
367     Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown
368     O'er the abandon'd Earth, now leave it bare
369Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!
XLII
370     He is made one with Nature: there is heard
371     His voice in all her music, from the moan
372     Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;
373     He is a presence to be felt and known
374     In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
375     Spreading itself where'er that Power may move
376     Which has withdrawn his being to its own;
377     Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
378Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.
XLIII
379     He is a portion of the loveliness
380     Which once he made more lovely: he doth bear
381     His part, while the one Spirit's plastic stress
382     Sweeps through the dull dense world, compelling there
383     All new successions to the forms they wear;
384     Torturing th' unwilling dross that checks its flight
385     To its own likeness, as each mass may bear;
386     And bursting in its beauty and its might
387From trees and beasts and men into the Heaven's light.
XLIV
388     The splendours of the firmament of time
389     May be eclips'd, but are extinguish'd not;
390     Like stars to their appointed height they climb,
391     And death is a low mist which cannot blot
392     The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought
393     Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair,
394     And love and life contend in it for what
395     Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there
396And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air.
398     Rose from their thrones, built beyond mortal thought,
399     Far in the Unapparent. Chatterton
400     Rose pale, his solemn agony had not
401     Yet faded from him; Sidney, as he fought
402     And as he fell and as he liv'd and lov'd
403     Sublimely mild, a Spirit without spot,
404     Arose; and Lucan, by his death approv'd:
405Oblivion as they rose shrank like a thing reprov'd.
XLVI
406     And many more, whose names on Earth are dark,
407     But whose transmitted effluence cannot die
408     So long as fire outlives the parent spark,
409     Rose, rob'd in dazzling immortality.
410     "Thou art become as one of us," they cry,
411     "It was for thee yon kingless sphere has long
412     Swung blind in unascended majesty,
413     Silent alone amid a Heaven of Song.
414Assume thy winged throne, thou Vesper of our throng!"
XLVII
415     Who mourns for Adonais? Oh, come forth,
416     Fond wretch! and know thyself and him aright.
417     Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous Earth;
418     As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light
419     Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might
420     Satiate the void circumference: then shrink
421     Even to a point within our day and night;
422     And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink
423When hope has kindled hope, and lur'd thee to the brink.
XLVIII
424     Or go to Rome, which is the sepulchre,
425     Oh, not of him, but of our joy: 'tis nought
426     That ages, empires and religions there
427     Lie buried in the ravage they have wrought;
428     For such as he can lend--they borrow not
429     Glory from those who made the world their prey;
430     And he is gather'd to the kings of thought
431     Who wag'd contention with their time's decay,
432And of the past are all that cannot pass away.
XLIX
433     Go thou to Rome--at once the Paradise,
434     The grave, the city, and the wilderness;
435     And where its wrecks like shatter'd mountains rise,
436     And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress
437     The bones of Desolation's nakedness
438     Pass, till the spirit of the spot shall lead
440     Where, like an infant's smile, over the dead
441A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread;
L
442     And gray walls moulder round, on which dull Time
443     Feeds, like slow fire upon a hoary brand;
445     Pavilioning the dust of him who plann'd
446     This refuge for his memory, doth stand
447     Like flame transform'd to marble; and beneath,
448     A field is spread, on which a newer band
449     Have pitch'd in Heaven's smile their camp of death,
450Welcoming him we lose with scarce extinguish'd breath.
LI
451     Here pause: these graves are all too young as yet
452     To have outgrown the sorrow which consign'd
453     Its charge to each; and if the seal is set,
454     Here, on one fountain of a mourning mind,
455     Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find
456     Thine own well full, if thou returnest home,
457     Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind
458     Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.
459What Adonais is, why fear we to become?
LII
460     The One remains, the many change and pass;
461     Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
462     Life, like a dome of many-colour'd glass,
463     Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
464     Until Death tramples it to fragments.--Die,
465     If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
466     Follow where all is fled!--Rome's azure sky,
467     Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak
468The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.
LIII
469     Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my Heart?
470     Thy hopes are gone before: from all things here
471     They have departed; thou shouldst now depart!
472     A light is pass'd from the revolving year,
473     And man, and woman; and what still is dear
474     Attracts to crush, repels to make thee wither.
475     The soft sky smiles, the low wind whispers near:
476     'Tis Adonais calls! oh, hasten thither,
477No more let Life divide what Death can join together.
LIV
478     That Light whose smile kindles the Universe,
479     That Beauty in which all things work and move,
480     That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse
481     Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love
482     Which through the web of being blindly wove
483     By man and beast and earth and air and sea,
484     Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of
485     The fire for which all thirst; now beams on me,
486Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality.
LV
487     The breath whose might I have invok'd in song
488     Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven,
489     Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng
490     Whose sails were never to the tempest given;
491     The massy earth and sphered skies are riven!
492     I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar;
493     Whilst, burning through the inmost veil of Heaven,
494     The soul of Adonais, like a star,
495Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.

Notes

1] Keats, with whom Shelley had been acquainted in England, died at Rome on February 23, 1821, without having taken advantage of Shelley's invitation to visit him. Shelley composed his elegy in the spring and it was printed in July. He called it "a highly wrought piece of art" and "the least imperfect of my compositions." His indignant Preface spreads the exaggerated report of his friends in England that Keats's violent agitation at the wanton attack in the Quarterly Review caused the rupture of a vessel in the lungs, which in turn led to the consumption of which he died. The title is followed by an epigram of Plato which Shelley elsewhere translates:
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.
Like Milton in Lycidas, Shelley follows the conventions of the pastoral elegy, of which the chief classical models are Bion's elegy on Adonis, the elegy on Bion (attributed to Moschus), and Virgil's Eclogue X. Fragments of all three survive among Shelley's translations. The unusual form of Shelley's title may derive from a combination of the Greek forms Adonis and Adonai or from the formula of lament in Bion's elegy (as in the line which Shelley translates: "The oaks and mountains cry, Ai! Ai! Adonis!"). In the Greek myth, the beautiful youth Adonis is slain by a boar and mourned by his lover, Venus; from her tears over his bleeding corpse spring out of the ground red windflowers or anemones; he is thought to revive and die annually like a vegetation spirit. Shelley's Adonais is killed by the vicious attack of the Quarterly and mourned by his Muse. Urania, the name here given to Venus, is that of Plato's higher Venus, of the classical Muse of astronomy, and of Milton's Heavenly Muse. In his first line Shelley follows closely the opening of Bion's Lament for Adonis. For other places where Shelley uses his classical predecessors, see the Notes to W. M. Rossetti's edition of Adonais. Back to Line
10] Where wert thou, mighty Mother. Compare Milton's Lycidas, 51, "where were ye, nymphs." which, in turn, echoes classical pastorals. Back to Line
29] Sire of an immortal strain: Milton. Back to Line
36] Third among the sons of light. In A Defence of Poetry (also written in 1821) Shelley defines an epic poet and calls Homer the first, Dante the second, and Milton the third. The numbering seems to be merely chronological. Back to Line
48] pale flower by some sad maiden cherish'd: apparently an allusion to Keat's Isabella. Back to Line
55] high Capitol: Rome. Back to Line
64] "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 his wound, and another from behind with wings is fanning Adonis" (Lament for Adonis, trans. Lang). Back to Line
127] Lost Echo. Echo, in classical myth, was in love with Narcissus and wasted away to a mere voice when her love was unrequited. Back to Line
136] young Spring ... threw down/Her kindling buds. Keats died on February 23 in Rome; the first shoots of spring are abortive, but spring nevertheless comes in stanza xviii. Back to Line
140] To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear/Nor to himself Narcissus. Hyacinth, beloved of Phoebus Apollo, was accidentally slain by him with a discus; Narcissus pined away with love of his own reflection in the water. Back to Line
145] the lorn nightingale: possibly an allusion to Keats's Ode to a Nightingale. Back to Line
147] the eagle who ... could nourish ... Her mighty youth with morning. In legend the eagle was reputed to renew itself and purge its sight by flying into the sun. Back to Line
154] "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; a right long, and endless, and unawakening sleep" (Lament for Bion, trans. Lang). Back to Line
234] But I am chain'd to Time, and cannot thence depart! Notably altered from Bion's "while wretched I yet live, being a goddess, and may not follow thee!" Back to Line
250] The Pythian of the age one arrow sped. The periodical reviewers (depicted in this stanza as wolves, ravens and vultures) were castigated by Byron (depicted here as Apollo the Python slayer) in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers after their harsh treatment of his Hours of Idleness. They praised his next book, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Back to Line
262] mountain shepherds: contemporary British poets mourning the death of Keats. Back to Line
264] Pilgrim of Eternity: Byron (see Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, III, lxx). Back to Line
268] Ierne sent/The sweetest lyrist. Ireland sent Thomas Moore (author of Irish Melodies). Back to Line
271] one frail form: Shelley himself. Back to Line
276] Actaeon-like. The huntsman Actaeon intruded on a favourite retreat of the goddess Diana where she was bathing. She turned him into a stag and he was pursued and killed by his own hounds. Back to Line
291] light spear topped with a cyprus cone,/Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew. The thyrus, a staff tipped with a pine cone and wreathed with ivy, was an emblem of Dionysus (or Bacchus), whose cult in Greece was distinguished by its possessed, intoxicated, and wildly demonstrative worshippers. Back to Line
307] The poet, editor, and friend of both Keats and Shelley, Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) is the last of the group of poet-mourners. Back to Line
316] reviewer of Keats's Endymion, whom Shelley supposed to be his own hated enemy, Southey, but who was in fact John Wilson Croker (1780-1857). Back to Line
397] inheritors of unfulfill'd renown. Chatterton died at seventeen, Sidney at thirty-one, and Lucan (Roman epic poet required to commit suicide by Nero in 65 A.D.) at twenty-six. Back to Line
439] slope of green access. Keats was buried in the old Protestant cemetery in Rome. Shelley wrote to T. L. Peacock on December 22, 1818: "the English burying-place is a green slope near the walls under the pyramidal tomb of Cestius and is, I think, the most beautiful and solemn cemetery I ever beheld." Shelley too was ultimately buried in the shadow of that pyramid. Cestius was a Roman tribune. Back to Line
444] one keen pyramid: see note on line 439. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1821
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.587.
Rhyme: