Mont Blanc is a meditative and descriptive poem in five unequal stanzas of irregularly rhymed iambic pentameter. As with several of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poems, scholars still dispute important details regarding its text. An early title specifies that the poem was conceived “at the extremity of the vale of Servoz”; a later subtitle has it “written in the vale of Chamouni,” which is a trough-like valley at the base of Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc itself is a stupendous sight as one comes upon it suddenly around a bend of the ravine through which the river Arve (originating in one of the glaciers of Mont Blanc) runs. Shelley probably stood on a bridge (the Pont de Pellisier) crossing the ravine to contemplate the scene. In his day, Mont Blanc was thought to be the highest mountain in Europe. From the bridge, it looms before the observer as one of the most dramatic views anywhere in the Alps; it is noted for its height, its formidably jagged rocks, its unforgettable glaciers, and the eerie whiteness from which it derives its name.
The first stanza of Mont Blanc reflects on the human mind itself, comparing it to the ravine of the Arve over which the poet is standing. The Arve flows through the ravine as influences from the material world flow through the mind, like a stream of consciousness. The river and the ravine have shaped each other, but the extent to which each has shaped the other is unclear. The second stanza is a more tangible...
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