Mont Blanc is an ode written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816. It is divided in five stanzas and written in irregular rhyme.
In this poem, the nature of human imagination is compared to the power of the mountain. Even though Shelley put emphasis on the faculty of the human imagination to reveal the truth through a study of nature, he questions the concept of religious certainty. According to the poet, only a privileged few can see nature as it really is, and are able to express its benevolence and malevolence through by means of poetry.
When the narrator looks at Mont Blanc, he disagree with Wordsworth that nature is benevolent and gentle. On the contrary, he claims that the nature is a great force that only seems to have power in relation to the human mind.
The Arve River of the second stanza is, according to the narrator, a representation of consciousness in nature. The Arve River and the ravine surrounding the river increase the beauty of the other scene. Knowledge is a combination of sensory perceptions and the ideas of the mind. The river is therefore a symbol of a conscious power and a source for imaginative thought.
In the third stanza, there is a connection between Mont Blanc and a higher power:
Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
Mont Blanc appears, still, snowy, and serene.
Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps
Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
And wind among the accumulated steeps; (Mont Blanc, lines 60–66)
Even if the power seems removed from mankind, it still serves as a teacher. By listening to the mountain, one can learn that nature can be both benevolent and malevolent.
The fourth stanza talks about the greater power behind the mountain:
Power dwells apart in its tranquility
Remote, serene, and inaccessible:
And this, the naked countenance of earth
On which I gaze, even these primeval mountains
Teach the adverting mind. […] (Mont Blanc, lines 96–100)
The power of the mountain, which includes both creation and destruction, is linked to the power of the imagination.
The theme of the poem is human mind and its ability to comprehend truth. It examines the relationship between the human mind and the universe. There is a force in the universe to which the human mind is connected and by which it is influenced. The poet is privileged because he can understand the truth found in nature, and the poet is then able to use this truth to guide humanity.