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John Keats (1795-1821)

Hyperion

(excerpt)


BOOK I
              1Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
              2Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
              3Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star,
              4Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone,
              5Still as the silence round about his lair;
              6Forest on forest hung about his head
              7Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
              8Not so much life as on a summer's day
              9Robs not one light seed from the feather'd grass,
            10But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
            11A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more
            12By reason of his fallen divinity
            13Spreading a shade: the Naiad 'mid her reeds
            14Press'd her cold finger closer to her lips.

            15     Along the margin-sand large foot-marks went,
            16No further than to where his feet had stray'd,
            17And slept there since. Upon the sodden ground
            18His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead,
            19Unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were closed;
            20While his bow'd head seem'd list'ning to the Earth,
            21His ancient mother, for some comfort yet.

            22     It seem'd no force could wake him from his place;
            23But there came one, who with a kindred hand
            24Touch'd his wide shoulders, after bending low
            25With reverence, though to one who knew it not.
            26She was a Goddess of the infant world;
            27By her in stature the tall Amazon
            28Had stood a pigmy's height; she would have ta'en
            29Achilles by the hair and bent his neck;
            30Or with a finger stay'd Ixion's wheel.
            31Her face was large as that of Memphian sphinx,
            32Pedestal'd haply in a palace court,
            33When sages look'd to Egypt for their lore.
            34But oh! how unlike marble was that face:
            35How beautiful, if sorrow had not made
            36Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty's self.
            37There was a listening fear in her regard,
            38As if calamity had but begun;
            39As if the vanward clouds of evil days
            40Had spent their malice, and the sullen rear
            41Was with its stored thunder labouring up.
            42One hand she press'd upon that aching spot
            43Where beats the human heart, as if just there,
            44Though an immortal, she felt cruel pain:
            45The other upon Saturn's bended neck
            46She laid, and to the level of his ear
            47Leaning with parted lips, some words she spake
            48In solemn tenour and deep organ tone:
            49Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue
            50Would come in these like accents; O how frail
            51To that large utterance of the early Gods!
            52"Saturn, look up!--though wherefore, poor old King?
            53I have no comfort for thee, no not one:
            54I cannot say, "O wherefore sleepest thou?"
            55For heaven is parted from thee, and the earth
            56Knows thee not, thus afflicted, for a God;
            57And ocean too, with all its solemn noise,
            58Has from thy sceptre pass'd; and all the air
            59Is emptied of thine hoary majesty.
            60Thy thunder, conscious of the new command,
            61Rumbles reluctant o'er our fallen house;
            62And thy sharp lightning in unpractis'd hands
            63Scorches and burns our once serene domain.
            64O aching time! O moments big as years!
            65All as ye pass swell out the monstrous truth,
            66And press it so upon our weary griefs
            67That unbelief has not a space to breathe.
            68Saturn, sleep on:--O thoughtless, why did I
            69Thus violate thy slumbrous solitude?
            70Why should I ope thy melancholy eyes?
            71Saturn, sleep on! while at thy feet I weep."

            72     As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
            73Those green-rob'd senators of mighty woods,
            74Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
            75Dream, and so dream all night without a stir,
            76Save from one gradual solitary gust
            77Which comes upon the silence, and dies off,
            78As if the ebbing air had but one wave;
            79So came these words and went; the while in tears
            80She touch'd her fair large forehead to the ground,
            81Just where her falling hair might be outspread
            82A soft and silken mat for Saturn's feet.
            83One moon, with alteration slow, had shed
            84Her silver seasons four upon the night,
            85And still these two were postured motionless,
            86Like natural sculpture in cathedral cavern;
            87The frozen God still couchant on the earth,
            88And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet:
            89Until at length old Saturn lifted up
            90His faded eyes, and saw his kingdom gone,
            91And all the gloom and sorrow of the place,
            92And that fair kneeling Goddess; and then spake,
            93As with a palsied tongue, and while his beard
            94Shook horrid with such aspen-malady:
            95"O tender spouse of gold Hyperion,
            96Thea, I feel thee ere I see thy face;
            97Look up, and let me see our doom in it;
            98Look up, and tell me if this feeble shape
            99Is Saturn's; tell me, if thou hear'st the voice
          100Of Saturn; tell me, if this wrinkling brow,
          101Naked and bare of its great diadem,
          102Peers like the front of Saturn. Who had power
          103To make me desolate? whence came the strength?
          104How was it nurtur'd to such bursting forth,
          105While Fate seem'd strangled in my nervous grasp?
          106But it is so, and I am smother'd up,
          107And buried from all godlike exercise
          108Of influence benign on planets pale,
          109Of admonitions to the winds and seas,
          110Of peaceful sway above man's harvesting,
          111And all those acts which Deity supreme
          112Doth ease its heart of love in.--I am gone
          113Away from my own bosom: I have left
          114My strong identity, my real self,
          115Somewhere between the throne, and where I sit
          116Here on this spot of earth. Search, Thea, search!
          117Open thine eyes eterne, and sphere them round
          118Upon all space: space starr'd, and lorn of light;
          119Space region'd with life-air; and barren void;
          120Spaces of fire, and all the yawn of hell.--
          121Search, Thea, search! and tell me, if thou seest
          122A certain shape or shadow, making way
          123With wings or chariot fierce to repossess
          124A heaven he lost erewhile: it must--it must
          125Be of ripe progress--Saturn must be King.
          126Yes, there must be a golden victory;
          127There must be Gods thrown down, and trumpets blown
          128Of triumph calm, and hymns of festival
          129Upon the gold clouds metropolitan,
          130Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir
          131Of strings in hollow shells; and there shall be
          132Beautiful things made new, for the surprise
          133Of the sky-children; I will give command:
          134Thea! Thea! Thea! where is Saturn?"

          135     This passion lifted him upon his feet,
          136And made his hands to struggle in the air,
          137His Druid locks to shake and ooze with sweat,
          138His eyes to fever out, his voice to cease.
          139He stood, and heard not Thea's sobbing deep;
          140A little time, and then again he snatch'd
          141Utterance thus.--"But cannot I create?
          142Cannot I form? Cannot I fashion forth
          143Another world, another universe,
          144To overbear and crumble this to nought?
          145Where is another chaos? Where?"--That word
          146Found way unto Olympus, and made quake
          147The rebel three.--Thea was startled up,
          148And in her bearing was a sort of hope,
          149As thus she quick-voic'd spake, yet full of awe.
          150"This cheers our fallen house: come to our friends,
          151O Saturn! come away, and give them heart;
          152I know the covert, from thence came I hither."
          153Thus brief; then with beseeching eyes she went
          154With backward footing through the shade a space:
          155He follow'd, and she turn'd to lead the way
          156Through aged boughs, that yielded like the mist
          157Which eagles cleave upmounting from their nest.

          158     Meanwhile in other realms big tears were shed,
          159More sorrow like to this, and such like woe,
          160Too huge for mortal tongue or pen of scribe:
          161The Titans fierce, self-hid, or prison-bound,
          162Groan'd for the old allegiance once more,
          163And listen'd in sharp pain for Saturn's voice.
          164But one of the whole mammoth-brood still kept
          165His sov'reignty, and rule, and majesty;--
          166Blazing Hyperion on his orbed fire
          167Still sat, still snuff'd the incense, teeming up
          168From man to the sun's God; yet unsecure:
          169For as among us mortals omens drear
          170Fright and perplex, so also shuddered he--
          171Not at dog's howl, or gloom-bird's hated screech,
          172Or the familiar visiting of one
          173Upon the first toll of his passing bell,
          174Or prophesyings of the midnight lamp;
          175But horrors, portion'd to a giant nerve,
          176Oft made Hyperion ache. His palace bright
          177Bastion'd with pyramids of glowing gold,
          178And touch'd with shade of bronzed obelisks,
          179Glar'd a blood-red through all its thousand courts,
          180Arches, and domes, and fiery galleries;
          181And all its curtains of Aurorian clouds
          182Flush'd angerly: while sometimes eagle's wings,
          183Unseen before by Gods or wondering men,
          184Darken'd the place; and neighing steeds were heard,
          185Not heard before by Gods or wondering men.
          186Also, when he would taste the spicy wreaths
          187Of incense, breath'd aloft from sacred hills,
          188Instead of sweets, his ample palate took
          189Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick:
          190And so, when harbour'd in the sleepy west,
          191After the full completion of fair day,--
          192For rest divine upon exalted couch
          193And slumber in the arms of melody,
          194He pac'd away the pleasant hours of ease
          195With stride colossal, on from hall to hall;
          196While far within each aisle and deep recess,
          197His winged minions in close clusters stood,
          198Amaz'd and full of fear; like anxious men
          199Who on wide plains gather in panting troops,
          200When earthquakes jar their battlements and towers.
          201Even now, while Saturn, rous'd from icy trance,
          202Went step for step with Thea through the woods,
          203Hyperion, leaving twilight in the rear,
          204Came slope upon the threshold of the west;
          205Then, as was wont, his palace-door flew ope
          206In smoothest silence, save what solemn tubes,
          207Blown by the serious Zephyrs, gave of sweet
          208And wandering sounds, slow-breathed melodies;
          209And like a rose in vermeil tint and shape,
          210In fragrance soft, and coolness to the eye,
          211That inlet to severe magnificence
          212Stood full blown, for the God to enter in.

          213     He enter'd, but he enter'd full of wrath;
          214His flaming robes stream'd out beyond his heels,
          215And gave a roar, as if of earthly fire,
          216That scar'd away the meek ethereal Hours
          217And made their dove-wings tremble. On he flared,
          218From stately nave to nave, from vault to vault,
          219Through bowers of fragrant and enwreathed light,
          220And diamond-paved lustrous long arcades,
          221Until he reach'd the great main cupola;
          222There standing fierce beneath, he stampt his foot,
          223And from the basements deep to the high towers
          224Jarr'd his own golden region; and before
          225The quavering thunder thereupon had ceas'd,
          226His voice leapt out, despite of godlike curb,
          227To this result: "O dreams of day and night!
          228O monstrous forms! O effigies of pain!
          229O spectres busy in a cold, cold gloom!
          230O lank-ear'd Phantoms of black-weeded pools!
          231Why do I know ye? why have I seen ye? why
          232Is my eternal essence thus distraught
          233To see and to behold these horrors new?
          234Saturn is fallen, am I too to fall?
          235Am I to leave this haven of my rest,
          236This cradle of my glory, this soft clime,
          237This calm luxuriance of blissful light,
          238These crystalline pavilions, and pure fanes,
          239Of all my lucent empire? It is left
          240Deserted, void, nor any haunt of mine.
          241The blaze, the splendour, and the symmetry,
          242I cannot see--but darkness, death and darkness.
          243Even here, into my centre of repose,
          244The shady visions come to domineer,
          245Insult, and blind, and stifle up my pomp.--
          246Fall!--No, by Tellus and her briny robes!
          247Over the fiery frontier of my realms
          248I will advance a terrible right arm
          249Shall scare that infant thunderer, rebel Jove,
          250And bid old Saturn take his throne again."--
          251He spake, and ceas'd, the while a heavier threat
          252Held struggle with his throat but came not forth;
          253For as in the theatres of crowded men
          254Hubbub increases more they call out "Hush!"
          255So at Hyperion's words the Phantoms pale
          256Bestirr'd themselves, thrice horrible and cold;
          257And from the mirror'd level where he stood
          258A mist arose, as from a scummy marsh.
          259At this, through all his bulk an agony
          260Crept gradual, from the feet unto the crown,
          261Like a lithe serpent vast and muscular
          262Making slow way, with head and neck convuls'd
          263From over-strained might. Releas'd, he fled
          264To the eastern gates, and full six dewy hours
          265Before the dawn in season due should blush,
          266He breath'd fierce breath against the sleepy portals,
          267Clear'd them of heavy vapours, burst them wide
          268Suddenly on the ocean's chilly streams.
          269The planet orb of fire, whereon he rode
          270Each day from east to west the heavens through,
          271Spun round in sable curtaining of clouds;
          272Nor therefore veiled quite, blindfold, and hid,
          273But ever and anon the glancing spheres,
          274Circles, and arcs, and broad-belting colure,
          275Glow'd through, and wrought upon the muffling dark
          276Sweet-shaped lightnings from the nadir deep
          277Up to the zenith,--hieroglyphics old
          278Which sages and keen-ey'd astrologers
          279Then living on the earth, with labouring thought
          280Won from the gaze of many centuries:
          281Now lost, save what we find on remnants huge
          282Of stone, or marble swart; their import gone,
          283Their wisdom long since fled.--Two wings this orb
          284Possess'd for glory, two fair argent wings,
          285Ever exalted at the God's approach:
          286And now, from forth the gloom their plumes immense
          287Rose, one by one, till all outspreaded were;
          288While still the dazzling globe maintain'd eclipse,
          289Awaiting for Hyperion's command.
          290Fain would he have commanded, fain took throne
          291And bid the day begin, if but for change.
          292He might not:--No, though a primeval God:
          293The sacred seasons might not be disturb'd.
          294Therefore the operations of the dawn
          295Stay'd in their birth, even as here 'tis told.
          296Those silver wings expanded sisterly,
          297Eager to sail their orb; the porches wide
          298Open'd upon the dusk demesnes of night;
          299And the bright Titan, phrenzied with new woes,
          300Unus'd to bend, by hard compulsion bent
          301His spirit to the sorrow of the time;
          302And all along a dismal rack of clouds,
          303Upon the boundaries of day and night,
          304He stretch'd himself in grief and radiance faint.
          305There as he lay, the Heaven with its stars
          306Look'd down on him with pity, and the voice
          307Of Cœlus, from the universal space,
          308Thus whisper'd low and solemn in his ear.
          309"O brightest of my children dear, earth-born
          310And sky-engendered, Son of Mysteries
          311All unrevealed even to the powers
          312Which met at thy creating; at whose joys
          313And palpitations sweet, and pleasures soft,
          314I, C{oe}lus, wonder, how they came and whence;
          315And at the fruits thereof what shapes they be,
          316Distinct, and visible; symbols divine,
          317Manifestations of that beauteous life
          318Diffus'd unseen throughout eternal space:
          319Of these new-form'd art thou, oh brightest child!
          320Of these, thy brethren and the Goddesses!
          321There is sad feud among ye, and rebellion
          322Of son against his sire. I saw him fall,
          323I saw my first-born tumbled from his throne!
          324To me his arms were spread, to me his voice
          325Found way from forth the thunders round his head!
          326Pale wox I, and in vapours hid my face
          327Art thou, too, near such doom? vague fear there is:
          328For I have seen my sons most unlike Gods.
          329Divine ye were created, and divine
          330In sad demeanour, solemn, undisturb'd,
          331Unruffled, like high Gods, ye liv'd and ruled:
          332Now I behold in you fear, hope, and wrath;
          333Actions of rage and passion; even as
          334I see them, on the mortal world beneath,
          335In men who die.--This is the grief, O Son!
          336Sad sign of ruin, sudden dismay, and fall!
          337Yet do thou strive; as thou art capable,
          338As thou canst move about, an evident God;
          339And canst oppose to each malignant hour
          340Ethereal presence:--I am but a voice;
          341My life is but the life of winds and tides,
          342No more than winds and tides can I avail:--
          343But thou canst.--Be thou therefore in the van
          344Of circumstance; yea, seize the arrow's barb
          345Before the tense string murmur.--To the earth!
          346For there thou wilt find Saturn and his woes.
          347Meanwhile I will keep watch on thy bright sun,
          348And of thy seasons be a careful nurse."--
          349Ere half this region-whisper had come down,
          350Hyperion arose, and on the stars
          351Lifted his curved lids, and kept them wide
          352Until it ceas'd; and still he kept them wide:
          353And still they were the same bright, patient stars.
          354Then with a slow incline of his broad breast,
          355Like to a diver in the pearly seas,
          356Forward he stoop'd over the airy shore,
          357And plung'd all noiseless into the deep night.

Notes

1] The poem is a fragment, consisting of two books (of which the first is here given) and a part of a third. It seems fairly certain that Keats began writing Hyperion early in the autumn of 1818, put it aside before his brother's death in December, had difficulty continuing the poem in the winter, and finished as much as we have in April 1819. Another version of the poem, usually called The Fall of Hyperion, A Dream, was composed in the late summer and autumn of 1819, and first published by Lord Houghton in 1856. Hyperion was planned as an epic poem, to tell of the dethronement of Saturn and the earlier gods by Jupiter and the other divinities of Olympus, and especially of the overthrow of Hyperion, the sun-god, by Apollo. Keats has to some extent imitated Milton's style, echoed his phrases, and reproduced situations from Paradise Lost, just as Milton himself had imitated ancient epic models. On September 22, 1819, Keats wrote: "I have given up Hyperion--there were too many Miltonic inversions in it. --Miltonic verse cannot be written but in an artful, or, rather, artist's humour. I wish to give myself up to other sensations. English ought to be kept up." For a few of the reminiscences of Milton, see notes to specific lines.

2] breath of morn: cf. Paradise Lost, IV, 641.

30] Ixion was tied to an ever-revolving wheel in Hades, for an outrage upon the gods.

31] Memphian sphinx. Memphis was a town in Egypt; the great stone image of the Sphinx with its human head and lion body is familiar.

39] evil days: cf. Paradise Lost, VII, 25.

105] nervous: sinewy.

118] An alliteration reminiscent of Milton; e.g., Paradise Lost, I, 60-65.

129] gold clouds metropolitan: the clouds that surround the capital of the gods; a Miltonic phrase.

137] His Druid locks to shake and ooze: cf. Lycidas, 53, 112, 175.

141] Cf. Paradise Lost, I, 650-59 and II, passim where the defeated angels propose to set up an opposing kingdom.

147] the rebel three: Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto.

232] Eternal essence: a Miltonism.

235-39] Cf. Paradise Lost, I, 242-45.

265] season due: cf. Lycidas, 7.

274-77] The colures are the two imaginary great circles which intersect at right angles at the poles. The highest point of the colure is the zenith, the lowest, the nadir.

302] rack: the higher clouds; used by Shakespeare in this sense.

311] the powers: Coelus and Tellus (Heaven and Earth).

349] region-whisper: whisper from the air; Shakespeare uses "region" in this sense, e.g. Hamlet, II, ii, 617, "region kites."


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820). Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1970. PR 4830 E20AB Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1820
RPO poem editor: J. R. MacGillivray
RP edition: 3RP 2.627.
Recent editing: 4:2001/12/20

Composition date: 1818 - 1819
Composition date note: 1818-19
Form note: Keats imitates Milton's blank verse but frequently varies the iambic pattern and even adds extra syllables to the line.


Other poems by John Keats