Hymn To Intellectual Beauty Poem Analysis

940 Words4 Pages
If There Ever Was a Godless Hymn John Knapp’s article, “The Spirit of Classical Hymn in Shelley’s ‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’” attempts to counter critics’ arguments that the aforementioned “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” is an ode and not, as the title would suggest, a hymn. Knapp’s main argument is that trying to define Percy Bysshe Shelley’s work within the strict constraints of genre is ill-suited when taking into consideration both Shelley’s professional views on genre and the precedent for hymns to play with generic boundaries. In his argument, Knapp stresses Shelley’s focus on genre as something that is, “mobile and ever-changing … bound up in perpetual transference.” Referencing Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry,” Knapp concludes that…show more content…
As the article continues, Knapp somewhat weakens his argument while discussing Shelley’s choice of stanzaic format by introducing the possibility that Shelley did not concern himself with the particularities of odes versus hymns. “Since Shelley composes homostanzaic hymns and odes with such frequency, it is difficult to ascertain the structural distinction he draws between the two genres. Indeed, many commentators assume that Shelley makes no distinction” (Knapp). If such is the case, then the discussion of Shelley’s intentions becomes moot. However, the noticeable structural differences between “Hymn” and Shelley’s most famous ode, “Ode to the West Wind,” lend credence to the likelihood that Shelley chose one over the other deliberately for “Hymn.” Also, given the premise of “Hymn” is Shelley speaking to the Spirit, having, “vowed that [he] would dedicate [his] powers / To thee and thine”, the weight of such a promise is better reinforced with the divine gravitas of a hymn when compared to an ode (Shelley). In addition, the poem features religious language and imagery, such as the use of the word “consecrate” at the beginning of stanza II, reference to the concepts of, “Demon, Ghost, and Heaven” all being named manifestations of lesser poets trying to capture the Spirit in stanza III, and the ending lines of the anecdote in stanza V, “Sudden, thy shadow fell on me; / I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy!” which portray the speaker as falling into what could be considered a position of prayer upon seeing the Spirit (Shelley). Nevertheless, if Shelley had entitled the poem “Ode to Intellectually Beauty” I doubt it would have compromised the work’s artistic
Open Document