Shelley's Mont Blanc: What Is the Mountain Outside of the Mind?

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Percy Shelley encountered in Nature a phenomenon which for him recreated the clear, cognizant thinking unlocked only in dreams. His excursion to the valley of Charmonix in the south of France resulted in the awe inspiring sight of Mont Blanc actively challenging his knowledge of the limits of the human mind, allowing a murky idealism inspired by the philosopher David Hume to come to the forefront of his writing. He questioned outright whether the mountain, or at least his interpretation of it, existed outside of the imaginings of his mind. Though his conclusion may have been infinitely doubtful, his thesis was clear: there can exist no purely objective reality. Though the physicality of the mountain was unquestionable, its true purpose was not. Thus the poem examines Nature in two ways: the traditional view of Nature as an alien and indifferent entity which exists outside of our minds, to touch and feel, and Nature as a construct of the human mind. It is also a poem which, despite its conventions, is alogical, and lends itself to understanding only in impressions.

We must swiftly ignore the interpretation of Nature as an entity in competition with man, something which exists for a solely physical purpose. By this point it is outdated and it is clear that the mountain of which Shelley speaks is inseparable from the experiences occurring in his mind. There is something about the construct of the mountain, its stark, majestic appearance, its springing forth from the darkness that has unlocked a thought process for Shelley which was hitherto accessible only in a dreamlike state.

Dizzy Ravine! And when I gaze on thee
I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
To muse on my own separate phantasy,
My own, my human mind, which passively
Now renders and receives fast influencings,
Holding an unremitting interchange
With the clear universe of things around,

When Shelley gazed upon the mountain he had no choice but to look within himself as well. It is...
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