A Lament Poem Summary Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English Class 12th


‘A Lament’ is a short lyrical poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Being the last poem of his, it expressed his agony over the life he led and the fact that his days are numbered. This autobiographical poem best expresses the deep grief felt by the poet persona, the poet himself. 

About the Poet:

    Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets. Shelley did not achieve  fame during his lifetime, but recognition of his achievements in poetry grew steadily following his death and he became an important influence on subsequent generations of poets including Robert Browning, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Thomas Hardy, and W. B. Yeats. This is the last and the saddest poem Shelley had written before his premature death at the age of 28. Other famous poems of him include Ozymandias, To A Skylark and Ode To The West Wind. 


    The theme of this short poem is the persona’s expression of deep grief and sorrow. As the title suggests, it is a lamentation of a grief-stricken soul over his past glories in youth and his inability to return to the same.  


    This poem is split into two stanzas of five lines each with a rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme of this poem is aabab ccbcb. This is a short, lyrical poem that is melodious in nature. 

Stanza 1:

O world! O life! O time!
On whose last steps I climb,
Trembling at that where I had stood before;
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more—Oh, never more!

    The poem begins with a direct addressal to the world, life and time with a particular emphasis to time. The persona goes on to describe how he is standing on time’s last steps, referring to the end of his days. He trembles at this thought, belying how afraid he is to face his imminent demise. He proceeds to lament over his fate, posing a rhetorical question of when he would return to the glories of his past. He answers his own question at the end of the stanza with a realisation of the bitter truth that it could ‘never’ happen. 

Stanza 2:

Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight;
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter ho-ar,
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more—Oh, never more!

     In this stanza, the persona continues to grieve his life. He declares that joy has eluded his life completely, making his whole existence dull and barren. Spring, summer and winter, nature’s seasons that has previously filled him with delight, fail to do so now. Again, the stanza ends on the persona’s bitter realisation that it never will either. 


    This lamentation expresses the deep sorrow felt by a dying man on his death bed. The raw emotions felt by him are starkly expressed through the lines of the poem, filling the reader’s heart with a terrible sense of grief. In this way, it can be deemed that the poet has successfully managed to convey what was felt by him at that time precisely- a rather pessimistic view of the world.