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Flashcards in Shelley Deck (23):

When did Shelley live?



Mutability: What is the "message" of this poem?

Everything changes - it's the only thing you can rely on.


Mutability: What does the speaker say in this poem?

The speaker compares humankind to swiftly moving clouds and lyres with dissonant strings that sound nice or discordant almost at random. He goes on to note that a single bad thought can pollute the day or "poison sleep." He ends by saying that whether we are happy or sad, we are sure to change from that state. Everything is "mutable."


Mutability: What kind of poem is this?

A lyric poem with rhyming couplets


Adonais: Who is this poem commemorating?

John Keats


Adonais: How does the mythical Adonis, stand in for Keats, die? What does this death stand for in the poem?

He is mauled by a bear, a fate brought on by the jealousy of Artemis (jealous of his hunting skills).

Shelley believed that his friend died of a broken heart after his collection of poem was mauled by critics.


Adonais: What is the progression of sentiment in the poem?

It starts out in dejection, mourning the life of Adonais, singing his praises, and lamenting his unfulfilled potential. As the poem continues, the feeling becomes more optimistic - rejoicing, even.

Though Adonais has died, he has only "awakened from the dream of life" and is one with Nature. What's more, there is hope that his spark of brilliance will live on in future generations and future poets.

This progression mirrors the myth of Adonis, who was mourned by Greek women; his resurrection as a wildflower was celebrated each year.


Adonais: What is the form of this poem?

A pastoral elegy; a poem that uses old traditions (myths) to express complex emotions.


What does "Pastoral" mean in the context of art?

Pastoral is a mode of literature in which the author employs various techniques to place the complex life into a simple one.


Adonais: What opinion on critics does Shelley express in this poem?

He attacks them for being cowardly and weak (sentiments echoed in his "Defense of Poetry")


Adonais: Who is Urania?

In the myth, she is Adonis's lover; in Shelley's poem, she is Keats's mother.


Adonais: To what biblical figure is Keats compared in this poem?

Christ; he visits his mother "Urania" after his death, making her rather like the Virgin Mary. The idea of his resurrection through nature and literature also has biblical undertones.


Music, When Soft Voices Die: What is the sentiment of this poem?

Even after beautiful things pass, they leave something beautiful behind them - a memory or energy. Even when our thoughts are gone (perhaps when we die) the love we felt will still exist out in the world, sleeping.


Stanzas Written in Dejection: Where did Shelley write these lines?

"Near Naples"


Stanzas Written in Dejection: What is going on in this poem?

Rather like Colerdige's "Dejection: An Ode," the speaker in this poem also describes being unable to take pleasure in a beautiful day. He begins by describing the sun, the ocean, the earth - everything is sparkling and engaging. It would be nice to share this with someone, but he is alone.

But none of this beauty is able to bring him contentment or pleasure, because he is lacking too much in life. His despair is such that he could just lay down and die. He doubts that many would mourn him; more people would likely "mourn" this day once it's over, because it's so beautiful. At least the day will live on in fond memory, unlike him. If people remember him, it will be with regret.


Stanzas Written in Dejection: What are some factors in Shelley's life that might have contributed to the writing of this poem?

His infant daughter, Clara, had died in September 1818 (the poem is dated December 1818), alienating him from his wife. He had lost custody of two children from a previous marriage, and his ex-wife and one of his wife's relatives had committed suicide. He was not successful as a poet, and was having money troubles.


Defense of Poetry: To what does this treatise respond?

Thomas Love Peacock and his “The Four Ages of Poetry”, in which Peacock attacked the Romantic idea of "Imagination"

He says that poetry has become redundant in the age of science and technology, and people should give it up.


Ozymandias: What may have inspired this poem?

A statue of Ramses II recently acquired by the British Museum


Defense of Poetry: What is Shelley's basic argument in this treatise?

Shelley's "Defense" contains no rules for poetry or aesthetic judgments, but is instead a philosophical musing about what a poet is and what poetry can do. It can serve as a kind of primer for the Romantic age in general.


Defense of Poetry: Who are poets?

- Anyone with an "excess" of language

- Ancient writers close to a language's source

- visionary people like legislators and prophets

- People like Francis Bacon, because of his mastery of language

- "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" who capture the spirit of the age


Defense of Poetry: How does this compare to Wordsworth's "Preface to Lyrical Ballads"?

Whereas Wordsworth says that poetry must have a "use", Shelley claims that tying poetry to direct moral causes or issues of the time lessens poetry's effect (a dictum he would violate).


Defense of Poetry: What are some tenets expressed here?

- Imagination is necessary for morality because it promotes empathy.

- Poetry is divine

- Society needs poetry to help people make sense of the times in which they are living and to connect to some higher power


Ozymandias: What is the sentiment of this poem?

The poem celebrates a monumental statue found on the site of a great ancient civilization. The statue declares "Look on my works ye mighty and despair" -- but by this point the civilization has been reduced to dust.

The despair Ozymandias meant to inspire by his works is actually caused by knowing that even great civilizations will fall and vanish.