Percy B. Shelley, Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats

This long poem of a total of fifty eight stanzas has a poignant introduction to the life and death of John Keats. Shelley writes in first person in order to convey his grief of Keats’ early and unfair death. It is clear from the introduction, that Shelley believes that Keats died of grief and that it was the “wretched men” at the Quarterly Review who “scatter their insults and their slanders without heed” who are responsible for his death. In the poem, Shelley refers to Keats metaphorically, as Adonais and shows anger toward the “melancholy Mother” who remains asleep and does not weep while Adonais is dead. This stanza conveys anger, a common psychological response to a surprising death. The grieving party is angry that the rest of the world seems to continue on, not knowing or even caring, that it had lost someone so important. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), human beings are egocentric maniacs who have an uncanny ability to believe that the world not only revolves around them but should also stop when they see fit. This poem does an excellent job of conveying the anger that Shelley (and all of us) feel when the whole world does not stop and share in our grief.

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