49 pages 1 hour read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1816

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Literary Devices


Alastor is an allegory, a staid and earnest form that seems radically out of place within the free-spirited anarchic urgencies of the Romantic. Romantics rebel; they do not learn, they teach. That Shelley would use that form suggests his own personal crisis at the moment he was beginning his own poetic career.

The allegory here reveals the dangers of a poet surrendering too completely to the creative soul at the expense of maintaining a healthy interaction with the real-time world. Ironically it is an opulent and excessive poem that argues against opulence and excess as toxic lures that in the end degrade the poet’s soul. It is, for all its elegant and lyrical ornamentation, its indulgence of a range of allusions to the myths and folklore of Antiquity, and even its rich sense of the sensual, basically a direct and clean metaphor. The character of the Poet, the exotic woman he temporarily beds, his dream muse, the demon spirit that compels him deeper and deeper into his creative urgency, the journey itself, all the characters, all the settings, all the details of the raging sea, the welcoming cave, the eyrie-perch upon which the Poet settles to first admire the world he has created and then die within its intoxicating opulence, all the elements of the poem and the adventures of the Poet are intended to bring home a cautionary warning.