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Hyperion-As an Epic

Hyperion-As an Epic

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Published by AbdulRehman
Keats' Hyperion.A superb epic in fragment.
Keats' Hyperion.A superb epic in fragment.

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Published by: AbdulRehman on May 16, 2012
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04/15/2014

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JOHN KEATS HYPERION—AS AN EPIC

The Titans, usurped by the new Olympian Gods, mourn their lost empire. The still not dethroned Hyperion continues his struggle, but must eventually accept defeat. He is replaced by Apollo, who emerged into godhead by Mnemosyne. This unfinished poem in three books is based on the Greek myth of the defeat of the Titans. Under Saturn, the Titans, including Hyperion, a sun God, ruled the Universe. They were overthrown by the Olympians, led by three sons of Saturn: Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. Hyperion was replaces by Apollo, who was also a sun God but had, in addition, particular associations with music and poetry. Keats sees in the myth a means to express faith in the idea of progress. Even the old gods must admit that their successors are more beautiful and therefore better fitted to rule. Hyperion was begun by Keats beside his brother’s sickbed in September or October1818It is to Hyperion that he refers when he speaks in those days of “plunging into abstract images”, and finding a “feverous relief” in the “abstractions” of poetry. These phrases are applicable only to Hyperion. It was finished sometime in April, 1819. The subject of Hyperion had long been in Keats’s mind, and both in the text and the preface of Endymion he indicated his intention to attempt it. At first he thought of the poem to be written as a romance, but his plan changed to that of a blank verse epic in ten books. The second version was a revision of the first, with the addition of a long introduction in a new style which makes it into a different poem. An epic is a long narrative poem with a lofty theme treated in a lofty style. An epic generally deals with the mighty deeds of heroes, be they men or gods or both. An epic is always written in the same metre throughout. The subject of an epic poem may be some well-known legend or some momentous sequence of historical events. An epic poem portrays characters on a grand scale. An epic is written in a grand style. An epic has a grand underlying idea. Thus grandeur is the keynote of an epic poem. Some of the best-known epic poems in western literature are the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer, the Divine Comedy by Dante and Paradise Lost by Milton. Hyperion, influenced by Milton, is structured as an epic with a detached narrator of a heroic story. The design of Hyperion owes much to Milton. The poem opens in the regular epic manner, in the middle of the story. The Titans, like Milton’s fallen angels, are already outcast and have lost their power. Hyperion alone is not yet over-thrown, and, like Milton’s Satan, he is the one hope of further existence. The opening scene is followed by a council to discuss the regaining of the lost Dominion, in which Enceladus, like Moloch, pronounces his sentence for open war, and Oceanus, like Belial, stands for more moderate measures. In 'The Fall of Hyperion', epic objectivity is replaces by intense lyricism, epic fable by personal myth. There are far fewer epithets, epic similes, and catalogues in this reworking of the myth. The later poem is generally less crowded with imagery, less concerned with the patterning of lines, and the language is more colloquial, more relaxed. Elements specifically inspired by Paradise Lost, including the debate of the fallen Titans which echoes the fallen angels in hell, are abandoned. This moves the focus to suffering, eliminating hope that remained in the earlier version. Even Saturn's defiance is downplayed, and his speech foil of words like 'feebleness' and (repeated twelve times) 'moan'. What is the effect of the descriptions of the fallen Titans being presented by the sorrowing Moneta rather than the detached epic narrator of Hyperion? 'The Fall of Hyperion' is more influences by Dante than Milton, in such matters as the use of the dream vision and the guide and the replacement of Miltonic books with Dante’s cantos. While in Hyperion, Keats is interested in change, here he is interested in the effects of change, with the way in which beauty and sorrow coexist, with the nature of the poet; the fall of the Titans is consequently no longer the focus of the poem. In spite of its fragmentary condition, Hyperion remains Keats’s most imposing piece of work. According to the publishers, the hostile reception given to Endymion discouraged Keats from continuing with the poem. Keats himself said that he gave it up because of the first excessive Miltonic’s style. There were too many Miltonic inversions, he wrote to Reynolds. ”Miltonic verse cannot be written but in an artful or rather in an artist’s humour.” The Miltonic influence is certainly obvious in the verse and diction of the first Hyperion as it is in the design. There is for instance a constant use of inversions such as “Stride colossal”, “rest

divine”, typical of Milton’s Latinized style. Especially noticeable is the trick of sandwiching a noun between two adjectives, for example, “gold clouds metropolitan”. There are other fragments of classical sentence-structure too:

Save what solemn tubes, Blown by the serious Zephyrs, gave of Sweet And wandering sounds, slow-breathed melodies. But the poem is hardly Miltonic in any strict sense. In the matter of rhythm, Keats’s Blank Verse has not the Milton’s Flight. The first Book of Hyperion shows the fallen Titans, with Saturn as the central figure, but Hyperion as the only one who remains even potentially active. The second Book shows them in council and its vital part is the speech of Oceanus. My voice is not a bellows unto irc. Yet listen, ye who will, whilst I bring proof How ye, perforce, must be content to stoop: And in this proof much comfort will I give, If ye will take that comfort in its truth. In the fragment of the third Book the interest shifts from the Titans to the young Apollo. Mnemosyne alone among the Titans has formed relations with the younger gods. She has watched over the childhood of Apollo, and now she finds him wavering and uncertain of his course. Although Keats has been called a Greek, he does not write of Greek things in a Greek manner. The very description of Hyperion, with its vague far-dazzling pomp and phantom-terrors of coming doom, shows that. Keats is far beyond in purity and precision of outline, and firm definition of individual images than the Greeks. Keats attains great success in conceiving and animating the colossal shapes of the early gods. He shows a masterly instinct in the choice of comparisons, drawn from Nature by which he tries to make us realize the voices of those gods, with their personalities between the elemental and the human. Indeed, Hyperion is Keats’s most serious and considerable attempt at the dramatic presentation of emotion---for the Titans are conceived in human terms, and their sorrows are human sorrows. There is far greater power, too, of discourse, of arguments in verse, than ever before; there is no parallel in Keats’s earlier works to the speech of Oceanus. Hyperion is indeed one of the grandest poems in the English language, and its grandeur seems one of the easiest and most spontaneous. It can be certainly called an epic as it carries all the features of an epic such as grand theme, grand style, great characters and same meter throughout.

Written and composed by: Prof. A.R. Somroo M.A. English, M.A. Education CELL: +923339971417

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