Alastor, Essence of Image-Work

30 Sep

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) is a grand master of language and metaphor. His works also vivid exemplify image-work (see first post on this site), its celebratory use and searing critique. His first major lyric poem, “Alastor” (1815) provides examples of both approaches. While clearly a product of youth, the poem previews the vocabulary, symbolic use of nature and themes that fill his mature work. Among its many fascinating features is that of an in-work Narrator who earnestly but futilely tries to mediate between the Preface’s critical voice, Shelley’s distancing device, and the main figure or sufferer in “Alastor,” the ‘Poet’ who represents a central part of Shelley’s self, the youthful and alienated seeker. This disposition of the self into three parts characterizes many of his works (and his wife’s Frankenstein) and marks especially his three works that most powerfully indict as self-delusive, futile and self-destructive the idealization that is natural to poetry and central to image-work. “Alastor” is a lyrical mythic drama of the idyll gone bad; of an apocalyptic disillusionment with the image and alienation from life ending in an extended elegiac decline of the protagonist and despair for the Narrator. [more coming]

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One Response to “Alastor, Essence of Image-Work”

  1. mythartculture October 1, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    There are strong structural and thematic links between “Alastor” (1815), “Julian and; Maddalo” (1818-19) and “The Triumph of Life” (1822), Shelley’s last poem unfinished (possibly) when he drowned.

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