Percy Bysshe Shelley's 'Lift Not The Painted Veil'

1482 Words6 Pages
"Lift not the painted veil", an 1818 sonnet by the British Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, depicts a world that is covered by a painted veil. Although this veil deceives people, the sonnet 's first line states that it is strongly forbidden to lift it. One individual ignores this warning and is plunged into a state of disorientation, thus confirming the soundness of the warning. Yet, given Shelley 's radical atheist background, there may be more to this poem than first meets the eye and the use of metaphors in the sonnet may reveal a different, even opposite reading. By focussing on the connotatively contrasting use of metaphors, this essay aims at demonstrating how Percy Bysshe Shelley 's sonnet "Lift not the painted veil", despite its deceptive, seemingly admonitory first line, encourages the individual to defy religion and to adopt atheism. First of all, when looking more closely at the way in which the lyrical subject describes the world, it stands out that he uses metaphors which bear a negative connotation. Life is compared to a "painted veil" (l. 1) which presents "unreal shapes" (l. 2) and merely "mimic[s] all we would believe" (l. 3): the world that humans perceive is just an illusion, because a veil stretches over it and impedes people from beholding its true nature. What they do behold is a counterfeit world full of treacherous images, which they nevertheless "Call Life" (l. 2), indicating that they are unaware that the world in which they live is a mere
Open Document