"Hyperion" is an epic poem in blank verse, written by the English Romantic poet John Keats . A long piece of the poem exists; however, Keats never finished writing it. The poem is fully classical in style, as it tells a tale from Greek mythology: the struggles...
"Hyperion" is an epic poem in blank verse, written by the English Romantic poet John Keats. A long piece of the poem exists; however, Keats never finished writing it. The poem is fully classical in style, as it tells a tale from Greek mythology: the struggles between the Titans and the Olympians for rule over the universe. This central story is one of the most salient features of Keats's use of classicism in the poem, as it is a famous creation myth in Greek mythology.
One by one, the powers of the Titans are being overthrown by the powers of the Olympians. Some of the Titans despair, but others are ready to fight back. Each family of gods helps one another, and they are all painted in a grand classical tradition by Keats. As the poem begins, we meet Saturn, a Titan, whose powers are being overthrown by his Olympian counterpart, Jupiter (who is also his son). Saturn's sister Thea arrives to console Saturn, and Keats describes her as follows:
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.
The struggles of the Titans and the Olympians is a familiar story from Greek myth, and many versions of the fable would have been available to Keats as he prepared to write his poem. While adhering to all the main points of the story, Keats puts his own Romantic spin on the characters, focusing on their moods and emotional conflicts.
Later, we meet the eponymous Hyperion, the Titan sun god who will be replaced by Apollo. Wracked with emotion by the struggle with his successor, Hyperion goes about the business of being a god by flying across the sky—he is the sun. But,
And the bright Titan, phrenzied with new woes,
Unus'd to bend, by hard compulsion bent
His spirit to the sorrow of the time;
And all along a dismal rack of clouds,
Upon the boundaries of day and night,
He stretch'd himself in grief and radiance faint.
In this manner, throughout "Hyperion," Keats uses the classical trappings of Greek myth to characterize the warring gods, infusing their godly roles with strong emotions and portents of conflict and doom.