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Please identify some Romantic elements in Keats' poem Hyperion (A Fragment).

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sharief78 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 17, 2012 at 8:24 PM via web

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Please identify some Romantic elements in Keats' poem Hyperion (A Fragment).

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 18, 2012 at 4:50 AM (Answer #1)

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In John Keats' poem, Hyperion (A Fragment), there are several Romantic characteristics to be found. 

First, there are about seven characteristics associated with the poetry of the Romantics.

  • a return to (or respect for) nature
  • idealization of women and children
  • an interest in the past (especially medieval)
  • championing personal freedom
  • melancholy
  • the supernatural and the occult
  • imagination and emotion

Romantic authors often used many of these characteristics, but not necessarily all of them at the same time. In Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for instance, there are a number of elements used, but not all. A respect for nature, the supernatural, imagination, and melancholy are found throughout the epic poem, but not the idealization of women and children, or an interest in the past.

In Part I, in lines 3-7, Keats refers to nature and also demonstrates the use of his imagination:

Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star,

Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone,

Still as the silence round about his lair;

Forest on forest hung about his head

Like cloud on cloud. 

Keats' personification of Saturn demonstrates imagination. References to nature are found with "star," "forest" and "cloud." In fact, references to nature continue throughout the first stanza. One might also define Saturn as "supernatural." While "supernatural" often brings ghosts and aliens to mind, the true meaning of "supernatural" is anything that is above or beyond the natural realm of this world, and Saturn is a supernatural creature.

Imagination and the supernatural are referenced again in lines 26-31:

She was a Goddess of the infant world;

     By her in stature the tall Amazon

Had stood a pigmy's height: she would have ta'en

Achilles by the hair and bent his neck;

Or with a finger stay'd Ixion's wheel.

     Her face was large as that of Memphian sphinx... 

For your reference, "She" is Thea (wife of Hyperion); Keats notes that Amazons (tall female warriors in mythology) are tiny next to Thea. Thea, Saturn, Achilles and the Memphian sphinx are all products of imagination: and Keats is telling the story of their fall. In Greek mythology, Achilles is a hero from the Trojan War. The Memphian sphinx is...

The still existing statue of the Sphinx...in the neighbourhood of the site of Memphis, once a famous city on the western bank of the Nile.

In lines 35-36, the characteristic of melancholy (sadness) is found in describing Thea's face.

How beautiful, if sorrow had not made

Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty's self.

The characteristic of sadness is found again when Thea finds Saturn and tries to wake him—but she stops herself. 

Why should I ope thy melancholy eyes?

Saturn, sleep on! while at thy feet I weep." (70-71)

The theme of melancholy runs throughout the beginning of Hyperion. When Saturn wakes after four months, he futilely struggles to understand how the Titans have been defeated. There is his empty hope as he tries to recapture a sense—even briefly—that the Titans might rise again. And finally, there is Thea's abiding sorrow as she resigns herself to (accepts without resistance) the fact that there is no hope for them.

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