28 pages 56 minutes read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1813

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Book IIChapter Summaries & Analyses

Book II Summary

They travel through the universe and arrive at a hall in Queen Mab’s palace, which features a dome so high and resplendent that it “mocks all human grandeur” (Line 2.58). The spirits there do not simply enjoy their beautiful existence; instead, they are striving to bring happiness to humanity.

Queen Mab can see all of history, past, present, and future and knows that in each event that occurs and every being that exists, nature’s law rules eternal. As Ianthe’s spirit looks down at all of earth’s inhabitants, she is amazed at how even the most insignificant creature plays a role in the “great chain of Nature” (Line 2.108).

Mab points out all the objects and people that have or eventually will come to ruin: Palmyra’s palace, the Pyramids, Athens, Rome, and Sparta, and a “barbarian nation” (Line 2.159) that wrought war and destruction. Great thinkers like Socrates and Cicero dissolved into nothingness just like the lowliest of humans. As thousands of years have passed, places that once supported busy cities have become deserts.

However, despite all of this, the prideful nature of humans has prevented them from understanding that all civilizations eventually fall, and that even the smallest animals “think, feel, and live like man” (Line 2.