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Sunday, 21 December 2014





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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 Europe.

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 upon.


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 coordinated.

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 with 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 Unbound.


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 harmony.

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 mountain.

‘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.



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