Tithonus "The Gods Themselves Cannot Recall Their Gifts"

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"The Gods Themselves Cannot Recall Their Gifts"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Tithonus was the husband of Aurora, goddess of the dawn, and the son of Laomedan, King of Troy. He asked his wife to grant him immortality, but he neglected to ask also for eternal youth. She granted his wish, and the results were disastrous. While Aurora remained immortally young and lovely, Tithonus became withered and ugly. In this poem he laments his immortality, wishing that he had never tried to transcend the bounds of what was intended for mortal men. He alone is set apart, unable to participate in the cycle of life:

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapors weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the fields and lies beneath,
. . .
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes. . . .
However, his desire for the beautiful Aurora has not waned, and he is all the more desolate when he reflects upon his present impotence. He asks Aurora:
Let me go; take back thy gift.
Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men,
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?
. . .
Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true?
"The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts."