Study Guide

Adonais Stanza 39

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Stanza 39

Lines 343-351

    Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,
    He hath awaken'd from the dream of life;
    'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
    With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
    And in mad trance, strike with our spirit's knife
    Invulnerable nothings. We decay
    Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
    Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

  • Our speaker continues with the "Keats-is-in-a-better-place" idea from the last stanza. He argues that now that the dead youth is actually alive for the first time, and that life was just a dream. 
  • It's we who are asleep, he argues. We are "lost in stormy visions" and have arguments with phantoms (like when we criticize the dead).
  • In another metaphor, he says that attacking those that can't fight back—be they other people or just poems—is like trying to stab a ghost that can't be hurt.
  • We are the ones who are decaying, because of our fear and grief. They rot out our insides, emotionally, the way death makes the body decay. 
  • Hope grows cold, he says; we become hopeless. This hopelessness is another thing that makes us decay; it eats at our "living clay" (body) like worms eat at a corpse. Eww.

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