Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The three main themes of Hyperion are: process, power, and poetry. The epic narrative examines how change in status and perception is a characteristic of all process. The conflict between generations of gods is a dramatization of the resistance of the past to claims of the present; while the poem focuses on the utterances of the Titans as signs of recovering energy, its thrust is toward the futility of efforts by the Titans to prevent their defeat. History is a succession of discrete generations, governed by a universal law of change. Whether Oceanus’s interpretation of this process as progressive is correct the poem does not confirm, because it does not conclude.

Certainly, however, the poem confirms the pain of dislocation and disorientation which occurs in the process of transferring power, as the Titans are impressively miserable in their monumental, static condition. They barely relieve their misery by talking about it, yet that is the only means available to them for mitigation of their humiliation. There is irony at work in the poem’s use of changing point of view, because the huge Titans ineffectively bluster about revenge while the young, troubled Apollo wanders aimlessly toward his divine destiny. In all instances, furthermore, the heroic gods are guided by heroic goddesses, to suggest that the physical power of males is administered by the greater power of females (manifested in their pity, their sensitivity, and their respect for...

(The entire section is 416 words.)