Hyperion, by John Keats

Book i.

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale

Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,

Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,

Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,

Still as the silence round about his lair;

Forest on forest hung about his head

Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,

Not so much life as on a summer’s day

Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,

But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest. 10

A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more

By reason of his fallen divinity

Spreading a shade: the Naiad ‘mid her reeds

Press’d her cold finger closer to her lips.

Along the margin-sand large foot-marks went,

No further than to where his feet had stray’d,

And slept there since. Upon the sodden ground

His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead,

Unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were closed;

While his bow’d head seem’d list’ning to the Earth, 20

His ancient mother, for some comfort yet.

It seem’d no force could wake him from his place;

But there came one, who with a kindred hand

Touch’d his wide shoulders, after bending low

With reverence, though to one who knew it not.

She was a Goddess of the infant world;

By her in stature the tall Amazon

Had stood a pigmy’s height: she would have ta’en

Achilles by the hair and bent his neck;

Or with a finger stay’d Ixion’s wheel. 30

Her face was large as that of Memphian sphinx,

Pedestal’d haply in a palace court,

When sages look’d to Egypt for their lore.

But oh! how unlike marble was that face:

How beautiful, if sorrow had not made

Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty’s self.

There was a listening fear in her regard,

As if calamity had but begun;

As if the vanward clouds of evil days

Had spent their malice, and the sullen rear 40

Was with its stored thunder labouring up.

One hand she press’d upon that aching spot

Where beats the human heart, as if just there,

Though an immortal, she felt cruel pain:

The other upon Saturn’s bended neck

She laid, and to the level of his ear

Leaning with parted lips, some words she spake

In solemn tenour and deep organ tone:

Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue

Would come in these like accents; O how frail 50

To that large utterance of the early Gods!

“Saturn, look up! — though wherefore, poor old King?

I have no comfort for thee, no not one:

I cannot say, ‘O wherefore sleepest thou?’

For heaven is parted from thee, and the earth

Knows thee not, thus afflicted, for a God;

And ocean too, with all its solemn noise,

Has from thy sceptre pass’d; and all the air

Is emptied of thine hoary majesty.

Thy thunder, conscious of the new command, 60

Rumbles reluctant o’er our fallen house;

And thy sharp lightning in unpractised hands

Scorches and burns our once serene domain.

O aching time! O moments big as years!

All as ye pass swell out the monstrous truth,

And press it so upon our weary griefs

That unbelief has not a space to breathe.

Saturn, sleep on:— O thoughtless, why did I

Thus violate thy slumbrous solitude?

Why should I ope thy melancholy eyes? 70

Saturn, sleep on! while at thy feet I weep.”

As when, upon a tranced summer-night,

Those green-rob’d senators of mighty woods,

Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,

Dream, and so dream all night without a stir,

Save from one gradual solitary gust

Which comes upon the silence, and dies off,

As if the ebbing air had but one wave;

So came these words and went; the while in tears

She touch’d her fair large forehead to the ground, 80

Just where her falling hair might be outspread

A soft and silken mat for Saturn’s feet.

One moon, with alteration slow, had shed

Her silver seasons four upon the night,

And still these two were postured motionless,

Like natural sculpture in cathedral cavern;

The frozen God still couchant on the earth,

And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet:

Until at length old Saturn lifted up

His faded eyes, and saw his kingdom gone, 90

And all the gloom and sorrow of the place,

And that fair kneeling Goddess; and then spake,

As with a palsied tongue, and while his beard

Shook horrid with such aspen-malady:

“O tender spouse of gold Hyperion,

Thea, I feel thee ere I see thy face;

Look up, and let me see our doom in it;

Look up, and tell me if this feeble shape

Is Saturn’s; tell me, if thou hear’st the voice

Of Saturn; tell me, if this wrinkling brow, 100

Naked and bare of its great diadem,

Peers like the front of Saturn. Who had power

To make me desolate? whence came the strength?

How was it nurtur’d to such bursting forth,

While Fate seem’d strangled in my nervous grasp?

But it is so; and I am smother’d up,

And buried from all godlike exercise

Of influence benign on planets pale,

Of admonitions to the winds and seas,

Of peaceful sway above man’s harvesting, 110

And all those acts which Deity supreme

Doth ease its heart of love in. — I am gone

Away from my own bosom: I have left

My strong identity, my real self,

Somewhere between the throne, and where I sit

Here on this spot of earth. Search, Thea, search!

Open thine eyes eterne, and sphere them round

Upon all space: space starr’d, and lorn of light;

Space region’d with life-air; and barren void;

Spaces of fire, and all the yawn of hell. — 120

Search, Thea, search! and tell me, if thou seest

A certain shape or shadow, making way

With wings or chariot fierce to repossess

A heaven he lost erewhile: it must — it must

Be of ripe progress — Saturn must be King.

Yes, there must be a golden victory;

There must be Gods thrown down, and trumpets blown

Of triumph calm, and hymns of festival

Upon the gold clouds metropolitan,

Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir 130

Of strings in hollow shells; and there shall be

Beautiful things made new, for the surprise

Of the sky-children; I will give command:

Thea! Thea! Thea! where is Saturn?”

This passion lifted him upon his feet,

And made his hands to struggle in the air,

His Druid locks to shake and ooze with sweat,

His eyes to fever out, his voice to cease.

He stood, and heard not Thea’s sobbing deep;

A little time, and then again he snatch’d 140

Utterance thus. —“But cannot I create?

Cannot I form? Cannot I fashion forth

Another world, another universe,

To overbear and crumble this to nought?

Where is another chaos? Where?”— That word

Found way unto Olympus, and made quake

The rebel three. — Thea was startled up,

And in her bearing was a sort of hope,

As thus she quick-voic’d spake, yet full of awe.

“This cheers our fallen house: come to our friends, 150

O Saturn! come away, and give them heart;

I know the covert, for thence came I hither.”

Thus brief; then with beseeching eyes she went

With backward footing through the shade a space:

He follow’d, and she turn’d to lead the way

Through aged boughs, that yielded like the mist

Which eagles cleave upmounting from their nest.

Meanwhile in other realms big tears were shed,

More sorrow like to this, and such like woe,

Too huge for mortal tongue or pen of scribe: 160

The Titans fierce, self-hid, or prison-bound,

Groan’d for the old allegiance once more,

And listen’d in sharp pain for Saturn’s voice.

But one of the whole mammoth-brood still kept

His sov’reignty, and rule, and majesty; —

Blazing Hyperion on his orbed fire

Still sat, still snuff’d the incense, teeming up

From man to the sun’s God; yet unsecure:

For as among us mortals omens drear

Fright and perplex, so also shuddered he — 170

Not at dog’s howl, or gloom-bird’s hated screech,

Or the familiar visiting of one

Upon the first toll of his passing-bell,

Or prophesyings of the midnight lamp;

But horrors, portion’d to a giant nerve,

Oft made Hyperion ache. His palace bright

Bastion’d with pyramids of glowing gold,

And touch’d with shade of bronzed obelisks,

Glar’d a blood-red through all its thousand courts,

Arches, and domes, and fiery galleries; 180

And all its curtains of Aurorian clouds

Flush’d angerly: while sometimes eagle’s wings,

Unseen before by Gods or wondering men,

Darken’d the place; and neighing steeds were heard,

Not heard before by Gods or wondering men.

Also, when he would taste the spicy wreaths

Of incense, breath’d aloft from sacred hills,

Instead of sweets, his ample palate took

Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick:

And so, when harbour’d in the sleepy west, 190

After the full completion of fair day —

For rest divine upon exalted couch

And slumber in the arms of melody,

He pac’d away the pleasant hours of ease

With stride colossal, on from hall to hall;

While far within each aisle and deep recess,

His winged minions in close clusters stood,

Amaz’d and full of fear; like anxious men

Who on wide plains gather in panting troops,

When earthquakes jar their battlements and towers. 200

Even now, while Saturn, rous’d from icy trance,

Went step for step with Thea through the woods,

Hyperion, leaving twilight in the rear,

Came slope upon the threshold of the west;

Then, as was wont, his palace-door flew ope

In smoothest silence, save what solemn tubes,

Blown by the serious Zephyrs, gave of sweet

And wandering sounds, slow-breathed melodies;

And like a rose in vermeil tint and shape,

In fragrance soft, and coolness to the eye, 210

That inlet to severe magnificence

Stood full blown, for the God to enter in.

He enter’d, but he enter’d full of wrath;

His flaming robes stream’d out beyond his heels,

And gave a roar, as if of earthly fire,

That scar’d away the meek ethereal Hours

And made their dove-wings tremble. On he flared,

From stately nave to nave, from vault to vault,

Through bowers of fragrant and enwreathed light,

And diamond-paved lustrous long arcades, 220

Until he reach’d the great main cupola;

There standing fierce beneath, he stampt his foot,

And from the basements deep to the high towers

Jarr’d his own golden region; and before

The quavering thunder thereupon had ceas’d,

His voice leapt out, despite of godlike curb,

To this result: “O dreams of day and night!

O monstrous forms! O effigies of pain!

O spectres busy in a cold, cold gloom!

O lank-eared Phantoms of black-weeded pools! 230

Why do I know ye? why have I seen ye? why

Is my eternal essence thus distraught

To see and to behold these horrors new?

Saturn is fallen, am I too to fall?

Am I to leave this haven of my rest,

This cradle of my glory, this soft clime,

This calm luxuriance of blissful light,

These crystalline pavilions, and pure fanes,

Of all my lucent empire? It is left

Deserted, void, nor any haunt of mine. 240

The blaze, the splendor, and the symmetry,

I cannot see — but darkness, death and darkness.

Even here, into my centre of repose,

The shady visions come to domineer,

Insult, and blind, and stifle up my pomp. —

Fall! — No, by Tellus and her briny robes!

Over the fiery frontier of my realms

I will advance a terrible right arm

Shall scare that infant thunderer, rebel Jove,

And bid old Saturn take his throne again.”— 250

He spake, and ceas’d, the while a heavier threat

Held struggle with his throat but came not forth;

For as in theatres of crowded men

Hubbub increases more they call out “Hush!”

So at Hyperion’s words the Phantoms pale

Bestirr’d themselves, thrice horrible and cold;

And from the mirror’d level where he stood

A mist arose, as from a scummy marsh.

At this, through all his bulk an agony

Crept gradual, from the feet unto the crown, 260

Like a lithe serpent vast and muscular

Making slow way, with head and neck convuls’d

From over-strained might. Releas’d, he fled

To the eastern gates, and full six dewy hours

Before the dawn in season due should blush,

He breath’d fierce breath against the sleepy portals,

Clear’d them of heavy vapours, burst them wide

Suddenly on the ocean’s chilly streams.

The planet orb of fire, whereon he rode

Each day from east to west the heavens through, 270

Spun round in sable curtaining of clouds;

Not therefore veiled quite, blindfold, and hid,

But ever and anon the glancing spheres,

Circles, and arcs, and broad-belting colure,

Glow’d through, and wrought upon the muffling dark

Sweet-shaped lightnings from the nadir deep

Up to the zenith — hieroglyphics old,

Which sages and keen-eyed astrologers

Then living on the earth, with labouring thought

Won from the gaze of many centuries: 280

Now lost, save what we find on remnants huge

Of stone, or marble swart; their import gone,

Their wisdom long since fled. — Two wings this orb

Possess’d for glory, two fair argent wings,

Ever exalted at the God’s approach:

And now, from forth the gloom their plumes immense

Rose, one by one, till all outspreaded were;

While still the dazzling globe maintain’d eclipse,

Awaiting for Hyperion’s command.

Fain would he have commanded, fain took throne 290

And bid the day begin, if but for change.

He might not:— No, though a primeval God:

The sacred seasons might not be disturb’d.

Therefore the operations of the dawn

Stay’d in their birth, even as here ’tis told.

Those silver wings expanded sisterly,

Eager to sail their orb; the porches wide

Open’d upon the dusk demesnes of night

And the bright Titan, phrenzied with new woes,

Unus’d to bend, by hard compulsion bent 300

His spirit to the sorrow of the time;

And all along a dismal rack of clouds,

Upon the boundaries of day and night,

He stretch’d himself in grief and radiance faint.

There as he lay, the Heaven with its stars

Look’d down on him with pity, and the voice

Of Coelus, from the universal space,

Thus whisper’d low and solemn in his ear.

“O brightest of my children dear, earth-born

And sky-engendered, Son of Mysteries 310

All unrevealed even to the powers

Which met at thy creating; at whose joys

And palpitations sweet, and pleasures soft,

I, Coelus, wonder, how they came and whence;

And at the fruits thereof what shapes they be,

Distinct, and visible; symbols divine,

Manifestations of that beauteous life

Diffus’d unseen throughout eternal space:

Of these new-form’d art thou, oh brightest child!

Of these, thy brethren and the Goddesses! 320

There is sad feud among ye, and rebellion

Of son against his sire. I saw him fall,

I saw my first-born tumbled from his throne!

To me his arms were spread, to me his voice

Found way from forth the thunders round his head!

Pale wox I, and in vapours hid my face.

Art thou, too, near such doom? vague fear there is:

For I have seen my sons most unlike Gods.

Divine ye were created, and divine

In sad demeanour, solemn, undisturb’d, 330

Unruffled, like high Gods, ye liv’d and ruled:

Now I behold in you fear, hope, and wrath;

Actions of rage and passion; even as

I see them, on the mortal world beneath,

In men who die. — This is the grief, O Son!

Sad sign of ruin, sudden dismay, and fall!

Yet do thou strive; as thou art capable,

As thou canst move about, an evident God;

And canst oppose to each malignant hour

Ethereal presence:— I am but a voice; 340

My life is but the life of winds and tides,

No more than winds and tides can I avail:—

But thou canst. — Be thou therefore in the van

Of circumstance; yea, seize the arrow’s barb

Before the tense string murmur. — To the earth!

For there thou wilt find Saturn, and his woes.

Meantime I will keep watch on thy bright sun,

And of thy seasons be a careful nurse.”—

Ere half this region-whisper had come down,

Hyperion arose, and on the stars 350

Lifted his curved lids, and kept them wide

Until it ceas’d; and still he kept them wide:

And still they were the same bright, patient stars.

Then with a slow incline of his broad breast,

Like to a diver in the pearly seas,

Forward he stoop’d over the airy shore,

And plung’d all noiseless into the deep night.

ll. 2–3. By thus giving us a vivid picture of the changing day — at morning, noon, and night — Keats makes us realize the terrible loneliness and gloom of a place too deep to feel these changes.

l. 10. See how the sense is expressed in the cadence of the line.

l. 11. voiceless. As if it felt and knew, and were deliberately silent.

ll. 13, 14. Influence of Greek sculpture. See Introduction, p. 248.

l. 18. nerveless . . . dead. Cf. Eve of St. Agnes, l. 12, note.

l. 19. realmless eyes. The tragedy of his fall is felt in every feature.

ll. 20, 21. Earth, His ancient mother. Tellus. See Introduction, p. 244.

l. 27. Amazon. The Amazons were a warlike race of women of whom many traditions exist. On the frieze of the Mausoleum (British Museum) they are seen warring with the Centaurs.

l. 30. Ixion’s wheel. For insolence to Jove, Ixion was tied to an ever-revolving wheel in Hell.

l. 31. Memphian sphinx. Memphis was a town in Egypt near to which the pyramids were built. A sphinx is a great stone image with human head and breast and the body of a lion.

ll. 60–3. The thunderbolts, being Jove’s own weapons, are unwilling to be used against their former master.

l. 74. branch-charmed . . . stars. All the magic of the still night is here.

ll. 76–8. Save . . . wave. See how the gust of wind comes and goes in the rise and fall of these lines, which begin and end on the same sound.

l. 86. See Introduction, p. 248.

l. 94. aspen-malady, trembling like the leaves of the aspen-poplar.

ll. 98 seq. Cf. King Lear. Throughout the figure of Saturn — the old man robbed of his kingdom — reminds us of Lear, and sometimes we seem to detect actual reminiscences of Shakespeare’s treatment. Cf. Hyperion, i. 98; and King Lear, I. iv. 248–52.

l. 102. front, forehead.

l. 105. nervous, used in its original sense of powerful, sinewy.

ll. 107 seq. In Saturn’s reign was the Golden Age.

l. 125. of ripe progress, near at hand.

l. 129. metropolitan, around the chief city.

l. 131. strings in hollow shells. The first stringed instruments were said to be made of tortoise-shells with strings stretched across.

l. 145. chaos. The confusion of elements from which the world was created. See Paradise Lost, i. 891–919.

l. 147. rebel three. Jove, Neptune, and Pluto.

l. 152. covert. Cf. Isabella, l. 221; Eve of St. Agnes, l. 188.

ll. 156–7. All the dignity and majesty of the goddess is in this comparison.

l. 171. gloom-bird, the owl, whose cry is supposed to portend death. Cf. Milton’s method of description, ‘Not that fair field,’ etc. Paradise Lost, iv. 268.

l. 172. familiar visiting, ghostly apparition.

ll. 205–8. Cf. the opening of the gates of heaven. Paradise Lost, vii. 205–7.

ll. 213 seq. See Introduction, p. 248.

l. 228. effigies, visions.

l. 230. O . . . pools. A picture of inimitable chilly horror.

l. 238. fanes. Cf. Psyche, l. 50.

l. 246. Tellus . . . robes, the earth mantled by the salt sea.

ll. 274–7. colure. One of two great circles supposed to intersect at right angles at the poles. The nadir is the lowest point in the heavens and the zenith is the highest.

ll. 279–80. with labouring . . . centuries. By studying the sky for many hundreds of years wise men found there signs and symbols which they read and interpreted.

l. 298. demesnes. Cf. Lamia, ii. 155, note.

ll. 302–4. all along . . . faint. As in l. 286, the god and the sunrise are indistinguishable to Keats. We see them both, and both in one. See Introduction, p. 248.

l. 302. rack, a drifting mass of distant clouds. Cf. Lamia, i. 178, and Tempest, IV. i. 156.

ll. 311–12. the powers . . . creating. Coelus and Terra (or Tellus), the sky and earth.

l. 345. Before . . . murmur. Before the string is drawn tight to let the arrow fly.

l. 349. region-whisper, whisper from the wide air.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44