Shelley at Work: A Critical Inquiry

By Neville Rogers | Go to book overview

4. 'Ariadne'. Love and Intellectual Beauty; Virtue and Power

WE have seen how at the time of Queen Mab the doctrine of Necessity had begun to be superseded in Shelley's mind by the doctrine of Love. For Shelley Love, which was also Beauty, was something to be pursued on two planes, the one abstract and universal and the other concrete and earthly. Love in the abstract was philosophical reality, 'truth . . . an Adriadne' to gain which was the object of his wrestling with 'the monster of his thought'; in his life, at the same time, he sought an Ariadne who should embody the qualities of the universal love in her earthly Woman-love and by it be his guide to the universal. This is the point, precisely, of the two Platonic memoranda which were quoted in Chapter 1, for the universal kind of Shelleyan love corresponds on the one hand to 'Beauty itself . . . a knowledge of it' and, on the other hand, is the 'ideally beautiful figure complete to the last touch' created by the painter--in the context the meaning of ζωγράϕος amounts practically to 'symbolist'. These memoranda come ten years later than Queen Mab and love in the meantime had become more and more the basic concept in Shelley's poetry, poetry being a quest for Beauty wherein, in accordance with the regular identification of thought with feeling, Love and its human symbol frequently became blended into one.

Shelley's quest for an idealized object of love is early perceptible in his affection first for his sisters and then for his cousin Harriet Grove: childish and instinctive at first this seems to have been very soon tinged with the colours of contemporary romantic fiction. How readily the feeling found its way into verse may be seen in a poem written when he was thirteen years old1 in which Harriet appears amid the usual Gothic trappings of gloomy turrets and howling winds. One stanza deserves quotation for its possible anticipation of things to come:

____________________
1
Esdaile Notebook. The manuscript, in Harriet Shelley's handwriting, is headed 'Feb. 28th 1805, To St. Irvyne': underneath she has written 'To H. Grove'.

-37-

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Shelley at Work: A Critical Inquiry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • MANUSCRIPTS xv
  • Bibliography xvii
  • Part One - 'The Wanderings of Careful Thought' 1
  • 1. Shelley's Notebooks: 'Method in his Madness' 1
  • 2. The Mind and Its Path. Philosophy and Symbolism in Shelley's Poetry 15
  • 3. Thought, Feeling, and Symbols. Necessity and the New Birth 24
  • 4. 'Ariadne'. Love and Intellectual Beauty; Virtue and Power 37
  • 5. Daemons and Other 'Monsters of His Thought' 64
  • 6. Boats. Isles 91
  • 7. The Dome. The Eye and the Star. The Philosophic Imagination 105
  • 8. The Veil. Mutability 120
  • 9. The Cave 147
  • 10. The Dream of Life 169
  • Part Two - The Wind, the lyre, and the Labour 195
  • 11. Shelley at Work: A Closer View 195
  • 12. Shelley and the West Wind 211
  • 13. Italian Platonics and Epipsychidion 230
  • 14. 'Ginevra': Emilia to Keats 249
  • 15. Adonais: Keats to Intellectual Beauty and the One 255
  • 16 From Hellas to 'the Triumph of Life' 273
  • 17. Poetry and the Power of Mind 305
  • APPENDIXES 327
  • Appendix I 328
  • Appendix II 329
  • Appendix III 334
  • Appendix IV 339
  • Appendix V 340
  • Index 344
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