While Keats has been traditionally seen as apolitical, writing poetry as a way to escape politics, since the 1980s scholars have located political implications in poems such as "To Autumn" and "Hyperion." It would be going too far to call "Hyperion" allegory , as that would...
While Keats has been traditionally seen as apolitical, writing poetry as a way to escape politics, since the 1980s scholars have located political implications in poems such as "To Autumn" and "Hyperion." It would be going too far to call "Hyperion" allegory, as that would suggest a one-to-one correspondence between the poem and the political events and political figures of Keats' time. Rather than allegory, scholars such as Daniel Watkins in 1989's Keat's Poetry and the Politics of Imagination, find political consciousness and commentary in "Hyperion."
Watkins argues that the poem reflects Keats' anxiety that, with the final defeat of France in the Napoleonic Wars and the ascendancy of Britain on the world stage, the ideals of liberty and democracy that France once stood for were on the verge of being obliterated. The poem therefore asks how can an individual find his place when caught up in a political situation not of his making, and with which he is not in agreement? How do we respond when unwelcome social change comes? For example, in Hyperion, Saturn asks:
Who had the power to make me desolate?
Shortly before end of poem, which is a fragment, Apollo asks a similar question: "where is power?" Watkins says that these questions, which the poem does not answer, reflect the sense of political uncertainty in a changing world in which individuals seemed to have less and less control. As Watkins points out, the Romantic poets used Greek culture and mythology in highly politicized ways to critique the political order, so that when we engage with a Romantic poem using Greek mythology, we have to expect the existence of a political subtext. In this case, it is the critique of an ascendant conservative or reactionary order buoyed by the utter defeat of the French—and the failure of the French Revolution to succeed, falling victim to Napoleon's imperial ambitions. If we want to extend the political parallel to today, it might be located in the anxiety some feel about the way the defeat of the socialist experiment in the USSR and eastern Europe has led to the growth of neo-liberalism and a reactionary political environment.