January 9, 2018
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[The everlasting universe of things Flows through the mind]
Note the familiar emphasis here on mind and matter, and the interchange between the two. The position is related to the process of “half creation” we saw in Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” and Shelley revisits it at several points in this poem, and also at points in his poem “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.” Here in “Mont Blanc,” though, Shelley seems ambivalent about the concept, and stresses the magnitude and vastness of the natural environment as potentially something far removed from the mind’s capacity to grasp–a trigger to its own processes and ability to respond, but ultimately beyond the mind. The emphasis on external magnitude compares also with what we just observed of the prospect convention in Manfred, where the vastness of human selfhood and identity was put forth point for point against external nature. Shelley was less of an egotist than Byron.
From what I understand of his bio in our textbook, Shelley was an atheist. Yet a “hymn” has a religious context as a song for God or another deity. Here, the “deity” that Shelley speaks of is the Spirit of Beauty, which is found in nature. It’s curious to see a Romantic piece that doesn’t relate the beauty of nature back to God. How was this type of thinking received during Shelley’s time?
I found this an interesting move as well. I was also thinking about how throughout the poem Shelley refers to the Spirit of Beauty as an intangible “power” that uplifts and brings about a sense of love and hope to human beings. He also says “Depart not as they shadow came, / Depart not– lest the grave should be, / Like life and fear, a dark reality.” which I read as a wish for the Spirit to stay with him when he dies or else it will be a dark reality. Overall, his explanation and feelings towards this spirit are pretty similar to a religious person and God.
I completely agree with you about the common religious understanding of the use of the word “hymn.” I always thought that anyone who was Atheist, especially one who is noted to “brag” about not believing in any form of organized religion, would never use a word such as hymn–regardless of what he is describing. He is using the word to describe “Intellectual Beauty,” but again, one wonders why.
This stanza and the next really stood out to me as being what being human is truly like. The last line of stanza 33 especially. “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought”. We look before and after makes me think that we are talking about before we are brought into existence and for what is after we are dead, and pining for “what is not” would be to grasp for something we know not is there. Us humans are caught in our own self pity and hurt, yet without it we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good. It is telling of the human experience in a way. We can not stay innocent and unhurt forever, because without that hurt we couldn’t truly understand what it is to be joyful.
After reading , this has many similar themes that Byron used in Manfred. The Intellectual Beauty, like Astarte, is sought, and is not attainable, leading to despondency. The author is dedicated to her, vowing his powers, and his dedication does not bring joy. The supernatural, spells and spirits are prominently featured, as things that grant power, but they are not useful in possessing the beauty.
The river Arve gets water from a secret source, ice glaciers.
Many people have lived and died, inspired by the Arve River
“Thou art pervaded with that ceaseless motion/Dizzy Ravine! And when I gaze on thee/I seem as in a trance sublime and strange” inspired by nature to a feeling and deep, dark thoughts that he attempts to express in words, but decides he cannot.
Thoughts of people in the past were inspired by the river and in modern times, those same thoughts, long forgotten or never heard from those who died previously are now being thought by modern inspired poets as they experience this river and mountain. So, people might not express how it feels to be there or what thoughts they are inspired to, but after they die, the next generations can go there and feel the same feelings, express those thoughts and feelings that their ancestors had, but didn’t express. However, he is expressing them in this poem. Even so, he thinks there is more to express than can be expressed, without actually experiencing the river and the mountain for ourselves. And I agree with that. However, I believe the experience is different for each individual and that is also in line with his believe that our reaction to a river or mountain, is dependent upon our relationship with nature. There are people that can stand over a water fall and feel barely anything or look at a sunset and feel absolutely nothing and then there are people who feel more than others, more than can be expressed in words. And then there is Shelley, who experiences it and puts what he experiences into words for future generations to compare their own experiences to.
[Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep That vanishes among the viewless gales! Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky, Mont Blanc appears—still, snowy, and serene; Its subject mountains their unearthly forms Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,]
“Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep/That vanishes among the viewless gales!/Mont Blanc appears-still, snowy, and serene;/Its subject mountains their unearthly forms/Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between/of frozen floods, unfathomable deep,” Percy Shelley points out that the clouds are homeless, yet majestic and divine. He points out how unfathomable, as God would be unfathomable, as the universe filled with stars and planets he knew nothing of, are unfathomable to the technology available at the time he lived in. He equals the clouds, and mountains and rivers as divine, in a superior position to human beings, living almost forever, so far as we are concerned. The mountain exists before and after we are here, so does the river and the clouds come and go forming and raining, changing, living much shorter lifespans than we do, yet we are not superior to the clouds, the homeless clouds.
[The limits of the dead and living world, Never to be reclaim’d. The dwelling-place Of insects, beasts, and birds, becomes its spoil; Their food and their retreat for ever gone, So much of life and joy is lost. The race Of man flies far in dread; his work and dwelling Vanish, like smoke before the tempest’s stream, And their place is not known. ]
Shelley, like Byron, didn’t enjoy morality or the boundaries of rules for humans and fought against those moral boundaries throughout their works, always pointing out how pointless an existence we live and how small we are compared to Nature, to the Universe and how he believes the fact that Nature is superior, we should learn from nature to be different than we are, not have all those domestic rules binding us. He most likely, was okay with Bryon’s immorality and was Godless too, so even though Shelley is a romantic poet, he is also a naturalist poet and not so romantic as Wordsworth, since he avoids all convention and anything spiritual that is not based on animal instincts, the five senses, what can be seen or heard. He gives no thought to the possibility of spiritual beings, such as angels or demons, he sees the world as cells forming water, which then forms streams, which then forms rivers, to oceans and seas and the wind that tosses the water, and the moon which controls the tides, without any thought of a creator or the need to worship or live a moral life to please the one that made it all. He would have loved evolution. Since he was born in 1792 and died in 1822, he just missed Darwin, who was born 1809. I guess he was born a bit ahead of his time then. Or perhaps the poetry of this time period, with Byron and others, was a flag waving and a sign of the times as they were progressing.
This stanza feels as if the narrator is despairing over God’s decision to create humans with free will. Because humans have free will, and by extension consciousness of being and free thought, it makes us imperfect mirrors of god, and therefore not as pure or divine as a leaf, even dead, or a cloud or a wave. It takes the idea from previous readings that all creations by God are godly because they were created by Him and skews it a bit.
I am feeling incredibly lucky reading this and knowing exactly what it feels like to be in Chamonix, France and look upon Mont Blanc. The feeling that Shelley is emoting in this poems captures perfectly what I felt while I was hiking around the french alps and that little french town. The place is mystical and unlike anything I’ve ever seen and just like Shelley it is something I cannot explain. The mountains are taller then you’ve ever seen and they are piled on one another. The snow at the top never melts and it’s incredible to see in the middle of summer. Shelley helped me grasp just how being here made me feel.
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April 3, 2018 at 3:15 pm
See in context
February 16, 2018 at 6:19 pm
February 14, 2018 at 2:42 pm
February 12, 2018 at 9:00 pm
February 9, 2018 at 12:17 pm
February 9, 2018 at 12:04 pm
February 9, 2018 at 11:57 am
February 7, 2018 at 11:18 pm
February 7, 2018 at 9:47 pm
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April 27, 2018 at 2:08 pm
This poem emphasizes the cyclical qualities of life. This stanza acknowledges the transition from the innocence of youth into a complicated older society. It demonstrates how happiness and youth are fleeting. In the previous stanza we are told about a carefree old man. He demonstrates how in our old age we might return to the same wonderous joy of youth. Although the elderly might posess this same happy disposition, the still carry wisdom and pain with the memories of a complicated life. Many reminisce about the simplicity of being a young girl or boy where everything is exciting and new. It takes a realist perspective where, “The sun does descend,/And our sports have an end.” This poem demonstrates how neither happiness nor sorrow are permanent afflictions. The cycle continues with no true end in sight.
April 27, 2018 at 1:58 pm
In the final stanza we see that, while the narrator doesn’t truly move to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, he takes the isle with him in his thoughts, memory, and temperament. He is expressing how he will take refuge in his memory of the isle in order to live amongst society while embracing a feeling of peace and connection with nature. Even, “While [he stands] on the roadway, or on the pavements grey”, he is able to connect with the Isle in his , “deep heart’s core” and in his soul. This is a form of escapism, while he still allows himself to be somewhat entrapped by a materialistic society. He gives in to most social conventions while holding on to romantic ideals.
April 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm
This poem reminds me of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The narrator desires to escape from society by living alone in nature. This is likely in response to an increasingly industrialized society. He glorifies nature and it’s peaceful qualities by describing the Lake of Innisfree with a natural supernaturalist perspective. This sort of ideal is expressed often throughout the arts and can be described as a romantic perspective.
April 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm
The final stanza in Dover beach is provoking in that Arnold speaks to lover about a dark and unhappy world. His is a realists perspective, likely in light of a declining faith in humanity and religion. This is a time, “Where ignorant armies clash by night”. In the dawn of industrialization conflict seems prevalent as society becomes materialistic. At this time society was fighting unaware over materialistic, and capitalistic reasons. Arnold has lost faith in humanity and struggles to move past, “The eternal note of sadness”. His is a romantic perspective where he looks at war, materialism, industrialization, and capitalism, as a true decline in humanity with no end in sight.
April 24, 2018 at 11:45 am
This poem exemplifies the transcendent ideals of writers in this period. “I’m happiest when most away” followed by, “I can bear my soul from its home of clay” suggests that the author finds happiness in spirit. She desires a freedom that comes with escaping the physical world before her. The, “home of clay” she speaks of is likely her physical body. In some religions a deity creates humans with clay. This poem is likely demonstrating escapism where the author would enjoy escaping reality if only in spirit. This is likely a response to industrialization which tends to strengthen attachment to the physical/material aspects of society.
April 24, 2018 at 12:13 am
Yes, definitely hearing your lover tell you they love you while meaning it is beautiful to the soul. Sometimes, though, feeling it is more important. The passionate intensity throughout the whole poem shows that she does need to hear it more than feel it. It soothes the soul to hear your lover telling you how they love you.
April 24, 2018 at 12:02 am
The forbidden fruit is indeed strong throughout the whole of the poem, I wholeheartedly agree. It seems that Laura is full of curiosity, but is that on the whole wrong? I think Lizzie’s warnings are what made Laura curious; a lot like the parent telling the teenager not to do something which in tern makes the teenager even MORE inclined to do it.
April 23, 2018 at 10:54 pm
This whole poem brings to mind an ending, as in a changing of the season; possibly a spring straight into winter. There is a loss and isolation feel to it, especially at the mention of Danae. I do love winter and I know now everyone does, which is why to me this feels like he’s writing about an ending of a beautiful spring.
April 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
There are two phrases that stand out to me in this: train-oil breath and petitionary growl. I have no idea why, but the first thing that came to my mind is world weariness. Carlyle is excellently descriptive about this Hyperborean Bear, this Russian Smuggler. Carlyle is trying to explain to him that he is absolutely not interested and who can blame him? It’s only after he shows the Russian his pistols that the Russian backs off. An everlasting no? If the pistols hadn’t dissuaded him, Carlyle might have been involved in a Duel, which is not something he wanted.
April 23, 2018 at 8:54 pm
I, too, thought war when I read this. The hope he shows until the stanza you mentioned was palpable, but so is his despair.
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