Adonais as a Pastoral Elegy


Question: Discuss Adonais as a Pastoral Elegy


An Elegy is a poem of lamentation. Pastoral Elegy is a kind of elegy that discusses both death and idyllic rural life. “Adonais” is a pastoral elegy, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), on the death of his contemporary poet John Keats. It has some features of pastoral elegy such as mournful tone, nature’s presence in mourning, the procession of mourners, concerned with the poet’s own death, and consolation.

Mournful atmosphere

The pastoral elegy begins with a mournful tone and an invocation to the muses. In “Adonais”, we can see that this poem has started with an invocation and mournful tone in which Shelley laments the death of his contemporary poet John Keats. Shelley Says:

“I weep for Adonais-he is dead!

O, weep for Adonais, though our tears.”

Nature and Shepherd

Nature’s participation in mourning is a significant feature of pastoral elegy. In this poem, all-natural objects join in mourning for Anonais death which means Keats’ death. All-natural things lament for the poet’s death. In “Adonais”, Shelley has shown nature’s mournful scene. We can see that spring is wild with grief and it is throwing her flower buds down as if she becomes Autumn who kills the buds. Poet Says:

“Grief made the young spring wild

And she threw down Her kindling buds

As if she Autumn were”.


The procession of mourners is the illustrious feature of a pastoral elegy. In “Adonais”, some mourners are presented by Shelley such as Byron, More, Hunt, and Shelley himself. Byron mourns the death of Keats by singing a quiet, pathetic song. Shelley feels to be completely broken in spirit. Keats’ friend Leigh Hunt is in deep sorrow because of the death of Keats. The poet says:


“And others came…Desire and Adoration,

Winged Persuasion and veiled Destinies

Splendours, and Gloom, and Glimmering Incarnations

Of hopes and fear and twilight Phantasies.”

Praise for the dead and consolation

Consolation and praise for the dead are the essential parts of a pastoral elegy. Keats has been praised in this poem widely. He has been compared in different ways such as stars and so on. In a pastoral elegy, the poet also becomes concerned about his own death. In “Adonais”, we can see the poet consoles himself. We can see the poet consoles, Keats, in the poem “Adonais”. Keats has become immortal by his poetic genius. Keats will continue to kindle the inspiration of the universe as long as we read his literary works. Shelley says:


“Peace, peace, he is not dead,

He doth not sleep-

He hath awakened from the dream of life

He lives, he wakes- ‘tis Death is Dead not he;

Mourn not for Adonais.”


To sum up, we may say that, “Adonais” fulfills best the demanded characteristics of a pastoral elegy. There is a procession of mourners, nature joins in mourning and consolation. So “Adonais” is an emblem of perfect pastoral elegy.

Pastoral elegy

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Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

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