Hyperion: A Fragment

(By John Keats)

Introduction

Keats starts Hyperion in medias or in the middle of things. The war between the Titans and Olympians is over and the bewildered Titan chief, Saturn is setting alone. Thea the consort of the sun god, Hyperion leads Saturn to the other Titans.

Hyperion: A fragment, is an abandoned  epic poem of 19th century  written by English Romantic  poet John Keats. It majorly depicts the result of the war between two gods Titans and Olympians.

It is based on Titanomachia, (Titanomachia is a ten years war series in Greek mythology fought in Thessaly, consisting Titans (old gen) and Olympians (younger gen). This war is also known as the ‘war of the Titans’, battle of the Titans, ‘battle of the gods’ or ‘Titan war’.

Why did this war take place?

This war fought to decide which generation of gods would have dominion over the universe.

Keats wrote this epic poem between autumn 1818-1819 until the spring. During this period, he was also nursing his younger brother named Tom, who supposed to die from Tuberculosis in 1 December, 1818. Hyperion was published in 1820, Lamia, Isabella The Eve of St. Agnes.

Form of the poem

Hyperion is a fragment is written in blank verse and divided into two complete books and a third incomplete book. Book-I contains 357 lines, book-II has 391 lines and book-III leaves off in mid- sentence at line which only consist 136 lines.

What the title “Hyperion” suggests or indicates?

The title “Hyperion” indicates the name of its hero, the ancient Greek God of the Sun. Hyperion was one of the titans, the offspring off Coelus (the sky) and Tellus (the earth). Saturn was ruler of the Titans, overthrown by his three Olympian sons; Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto.

Theme of the poem

The theme of “Hyperion: a fragment” is power and revenge, from the very beginning till the end of the poem power and revenge is witnessed.

Power:- Olympians have the power as they have defeated Titans.

Revenge:-Titans want revenge as they have been defeated by the Olympians.

Hyperion as political allegory

Hyperion as political allegory, Titans represents the ancient regime or the political system before the revolution in France. They embody its notion of power and its values.

Like a king of an ancient regime, Saturn has ruled alone when he is overthrown, he sits apart from the other Titans. Keats wrote much against the danger of being separate from others. He thought of it as lethal and wrote of “The deadly feel of solitude”. While Apollo, by contrast wants the share the experience of others.

Saturn represents absolute, solitary power and is nothing without power. Once it is taken away, he reacts with despair, unable to think or act. He has been so blinded by power that he has not even suspected the possibility of revolt. Saturn also symbolizes the end of the values that are important to the Titan’s reign like ancient regime. The Titan reign is patriarchal. Similarly, Enceladus stands for war but who fought for own gain and did not care for the ordinary people, who were destroyed in it.

Keats thought on Hyperion

Keats gives importance to deities who are in some way marginal to the mythology. For instance, he celebrates Apollo as the god of music, harmony, beauty, knowledge and so on. Apollo was defied pretty late in history, the earlier Olympian sun god being Phoebus. Clymene is only a nymph and nymphs came low in the hierarchy of immortals but the she alone among the Titans is open to the new world and its knowledge. Therefore, all these figures represent sources of knowledge and vision in Keats’s poetry.


Important questions

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