Percy Busshe Shelleys Hymn to Intellectual Beauty is a good example of a Romantic poem, because it is specific in focusing in on the Romantic genre of poetry that elevates the common mans experience to the sublime. (6) The relevance produced by this poetry, whether it is an abundance of emotion expressed by Wordsworth, a philosophical initiative presented by Coleridge, or a spiritual awakening depicted by Shelley, is sparked by the tenor of social and political circumstances at the time. A few of the characteristics of the Romantic period are 1.) Emphasis on the individual, 2.) Belief in the sublime, 3.) Emphasis on nature, 4.) Organicism, 5.) Supernaturalism, 6.) Spirit of Revolution 7.) Reverence for the imagination. (9-13)Shelley, influenced by Plato, was noted for being a great lyric poet of the sublime idealism, which is one of the characteristics of Romanticism. Shelley idealized humanity in the spiritual sense of being pure and having true beauty. This beauty of truth is found in Hymn of Intellectual Beauty, which is an ode.
Shelley uses the word intellectual to mean nonsensible, which is part of mans experience to experience the natural world through his consciousness. This ode uses the imagination man has to sense the unseen. For example, in the first line of Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, Shelley introduces the mysterious: The awful shadow of some unseen Power. (723) From the very beginning, the poem features one of the aspects of a Romantic poem. The unseen Power creates awe in the readers mind. The word awful means in awe of to this unseen Power. He uses concrete language to emphasize that this unseen visitor is of great power since he capitalizes the word power in this poem. In the third line, Shelley uses a simile to describe this invisible visitor: As summer winds that creep from flower to flower./ His reference in using the wind is to let his reader know that just like the wind that is unseen but is known to be there because its presence can be felt, this unseen Power is there by using Imagination this presence can be felt.
Shelley uses a wealth of imagery by using similes to relate to the awe of this beauty found in this visitor. He compares it to the hues and harmony of the evening and like clouds in the starlight widely spread. This beauty is what Shelley sees as true beauty. He declares it: O awful LOVELINESS. The capitalized word is to stress its wonder. (724)This ode besides having Imagination and mystery, it also speaks of the supernatural: Hopes of high talk with the departed dead, Shelley uses the supernatural in pursuit of this beauty. The Supernatural is unseen and part of the characteristics of Romanticism. In this ode, Shelley focused on invisible beauty. Using his experience to help the reader understand that by using reason, they may inhibit the ability to know truth.
Using the imagination can help reshape reality. (Pg. 724)Shelley used his Imagination to transmit what truth and beauty was to him and expressed in terms of the sublime. He concludes to this invisible visitor: Whom, SPIRIT fair, they spells did bind/ To fear himself, and love all human kind. He illustrated the characteristics of imagination, nature, mystery and the supernatural in his ode, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, found in a Romantic poem making his ode a good example of a Romantic poem. (Pg. 724)
Abrams, M. H. and Stillinger, Editors. The Romantic Period Vol. 2. Hymn toIntellectual Beauty New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Seventh Edition. 2000.
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