Under the self same bough, & heard as there The birds, the fountains. . . .my brain was rolled.

The triumph of life by P B Shelley



Reference to context

Under the self same bough, & heard as there The birds, the fountains & the Ocean hold Sweet talk in music through the enamoured air. And then a Vision on my brain was rolled. Lines 36 to 40

Dec 2015




The given lines have been taken from P.B.Shelley's (1792-1822) The Triumph of Life

(1822, published 1824).


The triumph of life is Shelley’s last incomplete visionary poem in terza rima. He met his untimely death while writing this poem. The speaker appears to be a version of Shelley himself. Here, life himself (on a Triumphal chariot”) appears as the universal conqueror (one of the many tyrants in Shelley). He describes life as the “painted veil” which obscures and disguises the immortal spirit. Ultimately, natural life corrupts and triumphs over the spirit.


The narrator had remained awake all night because of certain thoughts that disturbed him. These thoughts, he says, 'must remain untold'. However, the narrator tells us that he was now about to fall asleep. These lines follow just after when the poet describes that he is one with the nature. He tells that the dew that fell on his hair and brow was the same as that which fell on the grass on the slope of the Appenine over which the chestnut tree was growing under which he was lying. It was against such a background that the narrator had the epiphany which is the subject of this poem.


The narrator binds the past to the future by preceding every new stage of the narrator’s dream with a recollection of the previous one. Shelley establishes a pattern of transitions, in this manner, between new developments and completions in the narrator’s understanding four times in the poem. These transitions simulate triumphal arches offering passageways into the next “triumph.” In the first transition, the narrator’s identification with night is realized when he falls into “a strange trance” (29) and begins to see everything through a “transparent” “shade” (31, 30) that “glimmer*s+” (33) like a “veil of light . . . drawn / O’er evening hills” (32-33). His reality before the dawn then becomes a recollection that he needs to affirm to himself: “I knew / That I had felt the freshness of that dawn, / Bathed in the same cold dew my brow and hair / And sate as thus upon that slope of lawn” (34-36). This recollected reality seems to the impetus for moving from a trance-like state—which he refers to as “that trance of wonderous thought” (41)—to a “new Vision” (40) that is passively “rolled” on the narrator’s “brain” (40).It remains a fragmentary poem yet regarded by critics as Shelley’s masterpiece. T.S. Eliot calls it Shelley’s finest work. Carles Baker says “The triumph of life is filled with solemn music and charged with deep melancholy. It is more nearly mature in the inward control and majestically dignified in its quiet outward demeanour.

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