Percy B. Shelley, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

This is a long poem, consisting of seven twelve-line stanzas. My discussion focuses on the first stanza in order to discuss details and to avoid sweeping generalizations. In the first stanza, Shelley introduces the idea of “intellectual beauty” which “floats, through unseen, among us-visiting/This various world with as inconstant wing.” He elaborates on the idea of floating through air by comparing it to the summer wind and its ability to “creep from flower to flower.” As a natural phenomenon, the wind (especially a light summer wind) is rarely seen except possibly in the case of tornadoes. It is this unseen nature of wind, as well as that of other images, like “moonbeams,” “hues,” and “harmonies,” mentioned in the stanza that allow Shelley to play with the concept of the ethereal, unseen, yet real qualities of “intellectual beauty.”

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