"Herded Wolves, Bold Only To Pursue"

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Last Updated on September 14, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 303

Context: In his elegy on the death of John Keats (1795–1821), who died of tuberculosis in Rome at the age of twenty-six years. Shelley severely blames the reviewer of Keats' Endymion for inflicting a wound on the spirit of the young poet that led to the bursting of a blood-vessel in his lung and his subsequent death. Shelley says that everything in nature renews itself with the coming of spring: the ants, the bees, the swallows reappear; fresh leaves and flowers deck dead winter's bier; the lizard and the snake awake from their trance: only Adonais, or Keats, cannot come back; he will awake no more. Misery invokes Urania, the mother Muse of Adonais, to arise and go to the mournful place where Adonais lies. She flees to him and begs him to revive to comfort her; in her grief she exclaims that she would gladly die, as he did, but as an immortal she is chained to time and cannot depart from this world. She says that he was defenseless against the world; he should have waited until the time when wisdom and scorn would have made him impervious to envious thrusts. Wolves in bands, with courage only to pursue that which flees from them, the obscene raven, and the vultures dare not attack the Pythian of the age, Lord Byron, who treated his critics with the contempt they deserved in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.

"The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead;
The vultures to the conqueror's banner true
Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
And whose wings rain contagion;–how they fled,
When, like Apollo, from his golden bow
The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
And smiled!–The spoilers tempt no second blow,
They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low."

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