The Fall of Hyperion | Study Guide

John Keats

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The Fall of Hyperion | Themes

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Keats uses the theme of progression to explore the poem's allegorical narrative that depicts the struggle of the speaker to decipher the essence of the true poet. The poem also incorporates the themes of suffering and nature that embody the ideals of Romanticism to showcase the power of internal anguish and nature in bringing about spiritual truth. Romanticism is characterized by a rejection of order and rationality and it emphasizes imagination, spontaneity, and emotion.

Progression

Progression is presented as a theme in The Fall of Hyperion through the speaker's journey. The journey is both physical and spiritual in nature through the Titan gods' displacement by the Olympian gods. The speaker begins in a nature setting and then goes to an altar that can be approached on either side by steps. They feel "thy tyranny / Of ... the hard task proposed. Prodigious seem'd the toil" and experience anguish as they climb the steps: "Slow, heavy, deadly was my pace."

The speaker eventually gains Moneta as a guide and she gives him the vision of Saturn, Thea, and Hyperion. The physical journey helps the speaker progress in spiritual understanding of the nature of the true poet as one who takes part in the suffering of humanity and is able to pour "out a balm upon the world." The progression of the body thus reflects that of the mind as the speaker enters a new realm of divinity of existence and thought. The theme of progression is also seen in the Olympian gods taking the place of the Titan gods. The old ruler Hyperion has given way to Apollo who can better understand human experience and suffering. The theme of progressive movement is also embodied in the fall of the old regime and its replacement by a new one.

Suffering

The theme of suffering is apparent in the poem through the speaker's trying experience of mounting the immortal steps, the realization about the nature of the true poet, and the vision of the downfall of the Titans. This theme represents the Romantic ideal of the power of internal struggle to bring about spiritual awareness. Romanticism was a movement that occurred in the late-18th to the mid-19th century and one of its focuses is on the poet's passions and struggles that the Romantics felt would lead to spiritual enlightenment.

During the speaker's climb to the altar they describe "a palsied chill" up their limbs and the cold spreads to "those streams that pulse beside the throat." "One minute," the speaker explains, "before death, my iced foot" touched the final stair. The suffering endured during this ascension is representative of the speaker's understanding that the true poet must join humanity in its suffering to fully address it.

Suffering is also witnessed by the speaker through their vision of the agony of the fallen Titans. They watch as Saturn, Thea, and Moneta mourn their lost sovereignty. Moneta is said to have a "wan face ... blanch'd / By an immortal sickness which kills not ... which happy death / Can put no end to." Saturn is described as "Degraded, cold, upon the sodden ground." Finally, it is due to the Olympian god Apollo's insight into the suffering of humanity that he comes to displace Hyperion. Suffering is an abundant theme throughout the poem and represents the Romantic ideal of its power to facilitate spiritual awareness.

Nature

The theme of nature is apparent in the poem's imagery and it serves to express the Romantic appreciation of nature's capability to lead to a greater spiritual awakening. The Romantic poets emphasized a celebration of nature for its potential to bring about spiritual understanding. The Fall of Hyperion utilizes much nature imagery that acts as a guide to bring the speaker to a place of spiritual truth. The opening of the narrative describes a woodland scene with "Palm, myrtle, oak, and sycamore, and beech ... In neighbourhood of fountains." They also witness "an arbour with a drooping roof / Of trellis vines, and bells, and larger blooms" that leads them to "a mound / Of moss" with "a feast of summer fruits." The speaker is then said to drink a draught that leads them to have a vision. This setting facilitates the speaker's journey to spiritual awareness by providing a path or gateway to a higher understanding.

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