An Odyssey of the Soul, Shelley's Alastor

By Harold Leroy Hoffman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION

In 1815 Shelley wrote "Alastor," the first of those long poems in which his imagination seemed to play freely and more or less capriciously with the beauty of natural objects. Three years earlier there had been some indication of this power in "Queen Mab," but the chains of didacticism had been heavy about its wings. In "Alastor" liberation came, but not without suggestions of a mind confused by the wealth of its sensuous garnerings. Crowded with a host of images, the delicacy and variety of which evinced a new genius in poetry, and animated by a spirit which etherealized whatever it touched, the poem seemed far from simple in spite of the explanatory remarks contained in the Preface.

Although Professor Dowden long ago penetrated to Shelley's general intention, that intention has usually been viewed as having little organic relation with the swiftly moving images of the poem. Dowden believed that "Alastor" was written in a mood of self-detachment. "In its inmost sense," he wrote, "the poem is a pleading in behalf of human love." He believed also that "the mood which it expresses is one of sanity."1 He saw the poem as Shelley's judgment on an over-idealistic tendency in himself.

Before the publication of Dowden's work John Addington Symonds, influenced no doubt by his own knowledge of Platonism and by the presence of that theme in Shel

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An Odyssey of the Soul, Shelley's Alastor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Chapter I - Introduction 1
  • Chapter II - Allegory 9
  • Chapter III - Imagery 59
  • Chapter IV - Conclusion 126
  • Notes 135
  • Bibliography 159
  • Index 165
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