Intellectual Beauty

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Home > SparkNotes > Poetry Study Guides > Shelley’s Poetry > “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” contents
* Context
* Analysis
* Themes, Motifs & Symbols
* Summary and Analysis
* “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”
* “Ozymandias”
* “England in 1819”
* “Ode to the West Wind”
* “The Indian Serenade”
* “To a Skylark”
* Study Questions
* Further Reading
* How to Cite This SparkNote

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Shelley’s Poetry
Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Themes, Motifs & Symbols
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“Ozymandias”
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“Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”
Summary
The speaker says that the shadow of an invisible Power floats among human beings, occasionally visiting human hearts—manifested in summer winds, or moonbeams, or the memory of music, or anything that is precious for its mysterious grace. Addressing this Spirit of Beauty, the speaker asks where it has gone, and why it leaves the world so desolate when it goes—why human hearts can feel such hope and love when it is present, and such despair and hatred when it is gone. He asserts that religious and superstitious notions—”Demon, Ghost, and Heaven”—are nothing more than the attempts of mortal poets and wise men to explain and express their responses to the Spirit of Beauty, which alone, the speaker says, can give “grace and truth to life’s unquiet dream.” Love, Hope, and Self-Esteem come and go at the whim of the Spirit, and if it would only stay in the human heart forever, instead of coming and going unpredictably, man would be “immortal and omnipotent.” The Spirit inspires lovers and nourishes thought; and the speaker implores the spirit to remain even after his life has ended, fearing that without it death will be “a dark reality.”

The speaker recalls that when he was a boy, he “sought for ghosts,” and traveled...
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