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Write a critical note on Shelley's "Adonais" as a pastoral elegy.

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shewa55 | Valedictorian

Posted February 5, 2013 at 3:45 AM via web

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Write a critical note on Shelley's "Adonais" as a pastoral elegy.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 5, 2013 at 7:27 AM (Answer #1)

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A pastoral elegy was a form that had fallen into disuse by the 18th century, and this was seen as a reflection of the changing nature of British society and the way that industrialisation had led to, as argued by some, the death of the pastoral landscape in Britain. However, Shelley chose to write this lament for his friend's death in the form of a pastoral elegy because he wanted to clearly honour him in a form that was very particular to the golden age of poetry. In a sense, Shelley could be reflecting the various pastoral themes in the work of Keats himself, who, in works such as "Ode on a Grecian Urn" was quick to use various pastoral motifs to focus on beauty and the pleasures of life. Shelley thus writes this poem as a pastoral elegy and maintains the various forms of this genre, not choosing to identify the characters with their real names but instead revealing them through their characteristics and harking back to Greek myths and legends. Note how the mourners are introduced in Stanza 30:

...and the mountain shepherds came,

Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent;

The Pilgrim of Eternity, whose fame

over his living head like Heaven is bent,

An early but enduring monument,

Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song

In sorrow...

The "Pilgrim of Eternity" stands for the figure of Byron. The variety of mourners are described as being clothed in "garlands" which give evidence of the beauty of nature even as they are mourning the death of a loved one. Even though the poem is one of grief, the importance of the season of Spring and what it represents is never lost. Shelley therefore chose to write this poem in the form of a pastoral elegy first and foremost to honour his dead friend, but also to pick up on the various pastoral themes within the poetry of Keats.

 

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