Adonais "Third Among The Sons Of Light"

Percy Bysshe Shelley

"Third Among The Sons Of Light"

Context: Adonais is an elegy upon the death of John Keats, who died in Rome in 1821 of tuberculosis. Shelley keenly felt the loss of his fellow poet, whose work he greatly admired. He begins by saying that Adonais, or Keats, will be remembered as long as the future remembers the past. He invokes Urania, the heavenly Muse, or the Muse of astronomy, to weep for the death of Adonais. By way of indicating that death is inevitable, he mentions in stanza 4 the decease of John Milton, blind, old, and lonely, who passed away when the freedom of the Commonwealth was being stamped out by the liberticides of the Restoration. He was not terrified at the thought of death, and his clear spirit still reigns on earth. Here Shelley regards Milton much as Wordsworth did in the sonnet "Milton, thou should'st be living at this hour." Shelley considers Milton to be the third of the sons of light, that is, great epic poets; the first two are Homer and Dante. Shelley continues with the idea that others have been struck down, and some now living will have a hard journey on the road to fame. But Urania's youngest, dearest child, the twenty-six-year-old Keats, has died.

Most musical of mourners, weep again!
Lament anew, Urania!–He died,
Who was the Sire of an immortal strain,
Blind, old, and lonely, when his country's pride,
The priest, the slave, and the liberticide,
Trampled and mocked with many a loathed rite
Of lust and blood; he went, unterrified,
Into the gulf of death; but his clear Sprite
Yet reigns o'er earth; the third among the sons of light.