28 pages 56 minutes read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1813

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Book IVChapter Summaries & Analyses

Book IV Summary

A beautiful scene reveals nature’s harmony in every aspect of the world, from the “stars unutterably bright” (Line 4.5), to the hills covered in pure white snow. However, warfare disturbs this harmony—with it, a “tempest unfolds its pinion o’er the gloom” (Line 4.29), transforming peace into chaos. With their weapons, armies sully the beautiful visuals of nature, defile the sanctity of the sky with projectiles that set fire to “the arch of heaven [and create] dark red smoke / Blotting the silver moon” (Lines 4.34-35), and unleash endless horrific noise consisting of “the jar / Frequent and frightful of the bursting bomb; / The falling beam, the shriek, the groan, the shout” (Lines 4.41-43). After this manmade cataclysmic event, calm returns. The morning light washes over the bodies of the many soldiers who died.

Queen Mab is surprised to see Ianthe’s soul recoil at this sight—unlike Queen Mab, Ianthe’s spirit feels empathy for her fellow humans. Queen Mab explains that although what they’ve witnessed is miserable, this evil is not “irretrievable” (Line 4.75). Instead of being caused by nature, and being thus unchangeable, wars result from human’s evil, caused by leaders who wage it out of selfish pride. However, this means that eventually, “the poison-tree will fall” (Line 4.