The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Hills” is a poem in blank verse divided into forty-four stanzas of five lines each. The title is a metaphor that will continue throughout the poem, thus giving coherence to a long sequence of apparently disparate images. The hills suggest altitude and, implicitly, the possibility of a better vision: One can have a better perspective and see farther from the top of a promontory. This elevated position becomes the equivalent of foresight and superior knowledge.

Like traditional lyric poetry, “The Hills” is written mainly in the first person, but, in the original French version, poet Guillaume Apollinaire sometimes uses the second-person singular (tu) when addressing his old self in order to make a clear distinction between his old nature and his new one, between past and future. He also uses the second-person plural (vous) when he addresses the whole of humankind in a prophetic voice.

The poem begins with an image that could be related to Apollinaire’s experience in World War I: two planes involved in combat over Paris. However, one of the planes symbolizes the poet’s childhood and youth, and it is brought down by the other one, which symbolizes the future. This metaphoric victory of the future over the past announces a new era of unlimited knowledge and magic, where poets can perceive, as if from the top of a hill, things that had not been seen before and where they can announce “Billions of prodigies” to come.


(The entire section is 608 words.)