In "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty", Shelley describes his realisation of the power of human intellect. In seven carefully-constructed stanzas, he outlines the qualities of this power and the e ect it has had on him, using the essential themes of Romantic poetry with references to nature and the self.
In the first stanza, the concept of the "unseen Power" – the mind – is put forward, and Shelley states his position on the subject. Throughout the stanza, extensive use is made of profluent similes. "As summer winds… | Like moonbeams… | Like hues… | Like clouds… | Like memory…"; these intangible elements of nature and, significantly, memory (which here is a human quality) is aiming to create the air of this Power as something beautiful that is at one with nature and yet is transient and somehow beyond human reach and grasp. Similes such as "Like hues and harmonies of evening" are used to state that this Power has an equilibrium, an intrinsic, inevitable concordance. The five similes in this stanza are all intangible; the first four are all an intrinsic part of the Romantic’s love of, and preoccupation with, nature. Through these similes Shelley constructs an image of the Power’s awesome and intense status.
The second stanza is a question Shelley asks of the Power. Lines 2 and 3 are particularly important, as it is where he says the Beauty (another form of the Power) "shine[s] upon | …human thought". On line three, the question is posed to Beauty: "where art thou gone?" However, he recognises the futility of such a question with lines 4–8, which are a series of even more rhetorical questions. At the same time, he asks why it is that humanity remains disinterested in worshipping or deifying the human intellect, which he believes is the reason for our "scope | For love and hate, despondency and hope". Of course, the impact of nature is intense, as is shown by the ongoing figurative language involving it: "Ask why sunlight not for ever | Weaves rainbows o’er yon mountain-river". This shows how Shelley sees a divine being as integral in nature. And yet, he is despondent because humanity will not worship it.
Stanza three is how Shelley attacks traditional views of the divine being or beings. It relates to the second stan...
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...ssive behaviour. He feels that, after the exuberance of young adulthood, where everything is questioned and every issue a cause for investigation and thought, middle age and, eventually, old age is a depressing and unpalatable situation. He begs the Power to continue to be with him as he ages with personification of the Power walking down to him, as it did in his youth (stanza five). He concludes the poem with beseeching the Power to stay with him in adulthood and a brief statement of what the Power can do for the rest of humankind.
P. B. Shelley’s"Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" is a voyage of questioning, realisation, and worshipping the power of human intellect. The seven stanzas are a progressively deifying journey into his thoughts and experiences of what he calls the Power, or the human mind. He makes use of figurative language, especially similes in the early stanzas. Nature, the individual, and imagination (in the sense of intellect) are all core concepts to this poem. "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" is a Romantic work that details Shelley’s belief in the power of the human intellect, and his life of finding and then worshipping this power.
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