Shelley's Mont Blanc :
What did the mountain tell the poet?
Percy Bysshe Shelley believed that man could be a
perfectionist and expel evil from his own nature.
What did the poet tell the mountain? Let's find out. Yet, all of us
might not find the answer.
‘Dizzy Ravine when I gaze on thee
I seem as in trance sublime and strange
To muse on my own separate phantasy
My own, my human mind (11,34-7)
One thing we all have to agree is that the poem is all about a
relationship between the human mind and the external world. There is no
doubt about it. Most of us who have read Mont Blanc still debate whether
the mind or the world has primacy.
And the debate goes on.
Especially, why is the mountain's silence any different from the
silence of any other poem?
The silence felt by the poet occurred the moment he came face to face
with Mont Blanc. In the palpable improbability looking for anything but
silence, Shelley appeared to have defiantly tried to imagine anything in
context of the multiplicity had accrued the idea of the mountain in its
strong materiality that was never known in the highest mountain in
It had been difficult even to think of the mountain as merely as an
object and in the poet's mind to counter the false belief in the myth of
religion that attracted him to Mont Blanc. However, Shelly did not
destroy the mountain's symbolic value but inverted it.
By the time he had finished half of the poem, he tried to conceive
the mountain in terms of physical perfection and sound like movement
attempting to escape non-referentiality as the mountain would function
as a linguistic signifier to reveal the ironic distance the poem argues
But Shelley often finds himself restricted on the metaphysical
attributes as a blockage in the inability to break the contrary
manifestation by way of relationship.
As he proceeds in the poem, Shelly finds himself deeper in trouble in
the inadequate inspiration. He turns to Wordsworth to draw such
inspiration about how exquisitely the human mind and the world are
Suddenly the poem takes on a different attitude in that it appears to
be conceiving Mont Blanc not just like a white mountain but as a massive
version of blankness or solitude.
The full impact of its greatness subjects Shelley to see it as a
ravine. In the midst of all the convergence is a sensory overload of
images of the brook which were too great for the poet to resist.
‘And what were thou, and earth and stars and sea
In poetry he was the woman's part because he could love only
the mountain and never the woman.
It so the human mind's imagings
Silence and solitude were vacancy’ (11.142-4)
And Shelly falls in love; in an inspiring fragment of love. If he
were in a desert he would love the cypress but he chose to love a
ravine, a river and a mountain not because of nature but his human mind
which imagined itself independently isolated.
About love, he proclaimed; is a powerful attraction we conceive and
hope beyond ourselves to find within our own thoughts the chasm of
insufficient void that seeks to awaken things that we experience within
ourselves. This is love according to Shelley, the bond that connects man
When he sees the mountain, he starts addressing it. His feelings have
no limit in terms of the poet's traditionally glorifying natural objects
and address them in terms of passion but Shelley goes beyond unlimited
love for a mountain he sees as a beautiful virgin. So, he isolates
himself to have passionate dreams.
The more I read Mont Blanc, the more he drives me up the wall. He
appears to provide how to experience the sublimity of Mont Blanc with a
conscience of the mountain's force while experiencing isolation so that
no human can intervene between him and the mountain's power.
What was he trying to prove philosophically? The power of nature?
He goes to the extent of addressing the mountain and the ravine as
‘Thou’ thereby making it sacred and spiritual.
I've read of poets going crazy showering emotion on objects such as
the river, sea and mountain apart from humans they love and cherish but
he takes the micky out of me.
He is unpardonable for the way he goes about showering so much love
on a heap of soil we call mountain.
May be he hears it answering or responding to his armour but Shelley
is so different in his other poems such as Adonais or Prometheus
Shelley's attention always is focussed from images of destructiveness
to images of complementarity.
In the first part of the poem, woods and winds contend to solemn
The perspective of the mountain in the third section is to eternity.
The fourth section creates a harmony and mutability which is very
strong to create epochs and broods of little earthquakes and finally the
fifth part, a magnificent feat of calculated understatement:
‘Mont Blanc yet gleams on high; the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights
And many sounds, such of life and death’ .... (11.127-9)
And Shelley goes on and on. He asks the mountain which has a voice
whether it is clear that love for humanity is physically inimical to man
and Shelley concludes his vibrating most famous question from the
‘And what were thou, and earth, and sea and stars
If to the human mind's imagings
Silence and solitude were vacancy? (11. 142-4)
This is the final quest. He reminds the mountain that it needs him;
the relationship between man and world.