49 pages 1 hour read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1816

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Poem Analysis

Analysis: “Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude”

The opening two stanzas introduce the narrator, who admits to his own lifelong search to touch the supernal beauty of nature. He recounts in voluptuous and ornate lyricism how each season has graced his grateful soul. He addresses directly the “Mother of this unfathomable world” (Line 18) and professes his undying love for her “deep mysteries” (Line 23). It is crucial here that the narrator, unlike the naïve and headstrong Poet whose story he is about to share, is happy surrounded by the ineffable wonders of the world, content to never be permitted access to nature’s “inmost sanctuary” (Line 38), content to be a part of the “motions of the forests and the sea” (Line 47). What is never entirely resolved here is the nature of the relationship between the narrator and the young poet who so recklessly and wantonly decides he will secure access to those very mysteries. Is the narrator Shelley himself arguing passionately for moderation to his own inner poet, to prevent his own dissolution into regret and alienation, lost to the very world that so inspires him? Or is the narrator perhaps Shelley addressing like some wizened mentor (ironically, Shelley is all of 22 years old) the tight gathering of would-be university poets eager to forsake the dreary everyday world around them to pursue the world of stunning light and graceful shapes that beckoned to their imaginations and to their souls? Whichever the case, the opening sets up the narrator as one who has found contentment in embracing limits, in accepting that nature will forever sing free of the poet’s most intense efforts to engage its mysteries.