Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Hills” is considered to be one of Apollinaire’s poetic testaments (a quote from it is engraved on the poet’s tombstone) in which he develops his vision of the future of art and literature. In this poem, he predicts a new kind of aesthetic ideal, superior to the traditional one that “arose from symmetry.” This idea of new aesthetic creation is expressed in an allusion to a Greek myth. In stanza 8, when he foresees that “Sea-foam would once more be mother,” the poet refers to Venus, the goddess of beauty born from the sea foam, and he announces the advent of a new type of beauty.

Apollinaire refers to another Greek myth when defining his vision of the poet’s new mission. For him, the poet is also similar to a magician or a prophet gifted with almost supernatural powers. In this definition, the reader can identify the mythical figure of Orpheus who, in Greek mythology, was a poet, musician, and prophet with magical powers. His art could charm the most ferocious beasts and bring peace and harmony. He traveled to the underworld to bring his wife, Eurydice, back from the dead. This myth is one of Apollinaire’s favorites, and, in “The Hills,” the imagery of travel in time and space, beyond life and death, can be interpreted as a modern replica to Orpheus’s journey.

In Apollinaire’s interpretation, the myth of Orpheus also incarnates the idea of the poet as a martyr and of poetry as a sacred and sacrificial gesture...

(The entire section is 520 words.)