Adonais "Life, Like A Dome Of Many-colored Glass, Stains The White Radiance Of Eternity"

Percy Bysshe Shelley

"Life, Like A Dome Of Many-colored Glass, Stains The White Radiance Of Eternity"

Context: Meditating on the meaning of life and death, particularly on the untimely death of John Keats, Shelley asks, "Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene/ The actors or spectators?" He concludes that Keats is triumphant after all, for he has left this cruel world, and his spirit is now "A portion of the Eternal." Keats is not dead: "He hath awakened from the dream of life," for physical life is spiritual death. Revealing his romantic pantheism, Shelley says that Keats "is made one with Nature." "The inheritors of unfulfilled renown" (other poets who died young) welcome Keats into their midst. Justice prevails, for Keats is now happy. He is now a part of the all-pervading Spirit of love and beauty, and he calls us to join him: "From the world's bitter wind/ Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb./ What Adonais is, why fear we to become? . . . No more let Life divide what Death can join together . . . The soul of Adonais, like a star,/ Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are." Life distorts eternity until death smashes the illusion of life and merges us into absolute Beauty and Truth:

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments.–Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled!–Rome's azure sky
Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.