The Indian Serenade Summary by PB Shelley


The poem The Indian Serenade or Song Written for an Indian Air or Lines to an Indian Air by P. B. Shelley is a romantic love verse. It is characterized by the personal feelings of the lover for his/her beloved. There is a contradiction regarding the gender of the lover.

However, in the second stanza, the poet compares the lover to a female nightingale. Thus the lover is probably a female and in the poem, we will assume the lover to be a female.

Stanza 1

In the first stanza, the lover arises from the dream of her beloved. It should be noted that she ‘arises’ not ‘awakes’. Thus she is perhaps still in the dreams. It is dead of night.

The winds are calm and the stars are shining in their glory. As the lover arises, she feels that some supernatural spirit in her feet pulls her to the sweet chamber of her beloved with an eerie force.

Stanza 2

In the second stanza, lover cites the example of failing of three things and then expresses her desire to fail like them on the breast of her beloved.

  1. Firstly the moving breeze is so gentle that it seems to vanish in the calm stream (a failure).
  2. Second, the intensity of Champak tree’s (evergreen tree of the Orient had a strong odour) odour fades away as a sweet dream is lost (a failure).
  3. Thirdly nightingale being unable to express her grief through its song becomes quiet (a failure).

Similarly, the poet being passionate desires to faint upon the breast of her beloved.

Stanza 3

In the third stanza, the lover expresses her want for her beloved. She appeals to him (who is of course not present there) to lift her up from the grass (ground) as she has collapsed after being overwhelmed by the passion of love; ‘I die! I faint! I fail!’ 

She asks her beloved to lift her from the grass and pour on her lips and eyes, the shower of love kisses because they have become pale now. She says that her cheeks are pale and lifeless.

Her heart is beating ‘loud and fast’. If her beloved would lift up and keep her on his breast, the joy of passionate love will break her heart. Thus the poem ends in despair.