Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Summarize "Stanzas Written in Dejection" by Shelley.

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In this first stanza of the poem, the speaker sets the scene. It is a beautiful day: the sun is "warm," the sky is cloudless, and the ocean's waves dance "fast" and bright. The mood is therefore peaceful and idyllic.

Next, the speaker looks down on the ocean floor and looks at the seaweed. He watches the waves again. He notes the beauty of this scene but also that he is alone. He does not have anybody with whom he can share this idyllic day:

How sweet! did any heart now share in my emotion. 

In the third stanza, the tone and mood of the poem changes. The speaker, no longer enraptured by the beauty of nature, begins to focus on his life—specifically on all the things which it lacks, like "hope," and "health," and "peace." To make matters worse, the speaker knows lots of people who have all these qualities in abundance. They call life a "pleasure," while the speaker feels the opposite.

These thoughts make the speaker want to give up. He wants to lie down on the sand and "weep away the life of care." Death would come quickly, but he knows that some people would mourn his demise, just as he mourns the loss of this "sweet day" by thinking such unpleasant thoughts.

But the speaker closes the poem on a final, more positive note: he will not dwell on the negative but let this beautiful day live on in his memory.

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Shelley's poem "Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples" is about depression. The speaker, whom we can assume to be the poet himself, is sitting at the shore watching the light on the water and thinking about his life, actually, feeling a little sorry for himself.  He sees the beauty around him and knows he should be able to appreciate it, but he cannot. He sees people going about their daily business and bemoans that life has dealt him "another measure" so that he cannot take joy in his surroundings.  Yet he admits that his despair is "mild, even as the winds and waters are," and not so consuming that he cannot live. He even thinks he might "lie down like a tired child" and passively wait for death rather than do anything to hasten it. It seems at first as if he may be suffering over a lover, but in the last stanza he appears to be lamenting that he is not well-known and appreciated when he says "I am one whom men loved not," and he hopes that someone might lament for and regret his passing. 

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What is the central meaning of Shelley's "Stanzas Written in Dejection"?

While Shelley was in Naples, he experienced one of the emotional lows of his life. His daughter Clara died, and his wife Mary blamed him indirectly, it is claimed, for insisting on moving the family to Naples when Clara was sick. His poetry was not accepted during this period, and his children with his first wife were taken from him by the courts. Some even claim...

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that Shelley attempted suicide while in Naples. With this background information about the poet, it is easy to see how "Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples" reflects a despair that permeates the speaker's life regardless of the natural beauty he finds himself in.

The speaker opens with breathtaking imagery capturing his setting. The sky is blue as he sits by fast-dancing waves, a light breeze touches him, and the sounds of nature are a soft voice. The tone starts to shift with images of the speaker's "solitude" and as he notes that he "[sits] upon the sands alone."

Although he is surrounded by a serene landscape, the speaker cannot connect with "hope," "peace," or a feeling of being "content." His despair is so great that he wishes for death at one point:

I could lie down like a tired child,
And weep away the life of care
Which I have borne and yet must bear,
Till death like sleep might steal on me
It is in these lines that we hear the voice of Shelley the poet coming through as the speaker perhaps most clearly. The speaker feels that he is "one / Whom men love not," and thinks that perhaps people will mourn him when he is dead.
The poem, reflected in the title itself, shows the dejected spirit of a person which cannot be improved by the influence of nature, which typically serves as a more positive "reset" button for Romantic poets.
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What is the central meaning of Shelley's "Stanzas Written in Dejection"?

The central meaning of "Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples" by Percy Bysshe Shelley seems to be a contrast between his own "despair" (ln. 28) and the relative comfort he finds in nature. To find solace in nature is typical of Romantic poetry, as is the expression of heightened emotions. Both of these elements figure strongly in Shelley's poem.

The poem begins with a detailed description of a pleasant natural scene. Shelley describes a beautiful day, probably on the Gulf of Naples, as the poet references "waves" (3), and "the winds, the birds, the ocean floods" (8). While Shelley's imagery indicates that the scene is aesthetically pleasant, he also imbues the natural setting with his own emotions when he says "The City's voice itself, is soft like Solitude's" (9). This solitude that he feels in the surrounding environment is referenced in the title ("Dejection") and later in the poem ("despair" in line 28). In the second stanza, Shelley continues to use sensory detail to describe the nature scene, but midway through the stanza, he explicitly places himself in the scene by saying, "I sit upon the sands alone --" (14). He does,  however, hear in the sounds of the ocean, something that "share[s] in [his] emotion" (18).

From this point, Shelley transitions to a more detailed explanation of his emotional state. He feels as though he has nothing, according to lines 19-24, and judges that "Others [he  sees]" have more than he (25). He observes those other people as "Smiling" and experiencing "pleasure" (26), while "To me that cup has been dealt in another measure" (27). Shelley contrasts his own feelings of emptiness with what he see as the fullness of others' lives. The fourth stanza opens with Shelley returning to some of the ideas of stanzas one and two, though, as he writes, "Yet now despair itself is mild,/ Even as the winds and waters are" (28-29). While he is dejected, his feelings are tempered by the nature around him. He feels that he could weep and even die here in this setting. Shelley closes the poem by saying that he may be lamented after his death, but he feels that he will not be missed that much, "for I am one/ Whom men love not," (41-42). People will "regret" (42) that he is gone, but the memory of nature, of the day that surrounds him, will only bring pleasure: "this day ... / Will linger, though enjoyed, like joy in memory yet" (43-45). Again, Shelley prioritizes the beauty of the natural setting and its ability to yield positive emotions. Those emotions range from "joy" at the end of the poem to the relative comfort referenced in stanza four. 

So the central meaning of the poem seems to hinge on the relationship between the beauty and comfort of nature (and its ability to confer pleasant, long-lasting memories) and the speaker's dejected emotional state. This emotional state appears to be allayed by the nature surrounding him, while the causes for his dejection are related to society (especially from comparing himself to other people). 

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