Hyperion, by John Keats

Book iii.

Thus in alternate uproar and sad peace,

Amazed were those Titans utterly.

O leave them, Muse! O leave them to their woes;

For thou art weak to sing such tumults dire:

A solitary sorrow best befits

Thy lips, and antheming a lonely grief.

Leave them, O Muse! for thou anon wilt find

Many a fallen old Divinity

Wandering in vain about bewildered shores.

Meantime touch piously the Delphic harp, 10

And not a wind of heaven but will breathe

In aid soft warble from the Dorian flute;

For lo! ’tis for the Father of all verse.

Flush every thing that hath a vermeil hue,

Let the rose glow intense and warm the air,

And let the clouds of even and of morn

Float in voluptuous fleeces o’er the hills;

Let the red wine within the goblet boil,

Cold as a bubbling well; let faint-lipp’d shells,

On sands, or in great deeps, vermilion turn 20

Through all their labyrinths; and let the maid

Blush keenly, as with some warm kiss surpris’d.

Chief isle of the embowered Cyclades,

Rejoice, O Delos, with thine olives green,

And poplars, and lawn-shading palms, and beech,

In which the Zephyr breathes the loudest song,

And hazels thick, dark-stemm’d beneath the shade:

Apollo is once more the golden theme!

Where was he, when the Giant of the Sun

Stood bright, amid the sorrow of his peers? 30

Together had he left his mother fair

And his twin-sister sleeping in their bower,

And in the morning twilight wandered forth

Beside the osiers of a rivulet,

Full ankle-deep in lilies of the vale.

The nightingale had ceas’d, and a few stars

Were lingering in the heavens, while the thrush

Began calm-throated. Throughout all the isle

There was no covert, no retired cave

Unhaunted by the murmurous noise of waves, 40

Though scarcely heard in many a green recess.

He listen’d, and he wept, and his bright tears

Went trickling down the golden bow he held.

Thus with half-shut suffused eyes he stood,

While from beneath some cumbrous boughs hard by

With solemn step an awful Goddess came,

And there was purport in her looks for him,

Which he with eager guess began to read

Perplex’d, the while melodiously he said:

“How cam’st thou over the unfooted sea? 50

Or hath that antique mien and robed form

Mov’d in these vales invisible till now?

Sure I have heard those vestments sweeping o’er

The fallen leaves, when I have sat alone

In cool mid-forest. Surely I have traced

The rustle of those ample skirts about

These grassy solitudes, and seen the flowers

Lift up their heads, as still the whisper pass’d.

Goddess! I have beheld those eyes before,

And their eternal calm, and all that face, 60

Or I have dream’d.”—“Yes,” said the supreme shape,

“Thou hast dream’d of me; and awaking up

Didst find a lyre all golden by thy side,

Whose strings touch’d by thy fingers, all the vast

Unwearied ear of the whole universe

Listen’d in pain and pleasure at the birth

Of such new tuneful wonder. Is’t not strange

That thou shouldst weep, so gifted? Tell me, youth,

What sorrow thou canst feel; for I am sad

When thou dost shed a tear: explain thy griefs 70

To one who in this lonely isle hath been

The watcher of thy sleep and hours of life,

From the young day when first thy infant hand

Pluck’d witless the weak flowers, till thine arm

Could bend that bow heroic to all times.

Show thy heart’s secret to an ancient Power

Who hath forsaken old and sacred thrones

For prophecies of thee, and for the sake

Of loveliness new born.”— Apollo then,

With sudden scrutiny and gloomless eyes, 80

Thus answer’d, while his white melodious throat

Throbb’d with the syllables. —“Mnemosyne!

Thy name is on my tongue, I know not how;

Why should I tell thee what thou so well seest?

Why should I strive to show what from thy lips

Would come no mystery? For me, dark, dark,

And painful vile oblivion seals my eyes:

I strive to search wherefore I am so sad,

Until a melancholy numbs my limbs;

And then upon the grass I sit, and moan, 90

Like one who once had wings. — O why should I

Feel curs’d and thwarted, when the liegeless air

Yields to my step aspirant? why should I

Spurn the green turf as hateful to my feet?

Goddess benign, point forth some unknown thing:

Are there not other regions than this isle?

What are the stars? There is the sun, the sun!

And the most patient brilliance of the moon!

And stars by thousands! Point me out the way

To any one particular beauteous star, 100

And I will flit into it with my lyre,

And make its silvery splendour pant with bliss.

I have heard the cloudy thunder: Where is power?

Whose hand, whose essence, what divinity

Makes this alarum in the elements,

While I here idle listen on the shores

In fearless yet in aching ignorance?

O tell me, lonely Goddess, by thy harp,

That waileth every morn and eventide,

Tell me why thus I rave, about these groves! 110

Mute thou remainest — Mute! yet I can read

A wondrous lesson in thy silent face:

Knowledge enormous makes a God of me.

Names, deeds, gray legends, dire events, rebellions,

Majesties, sovran voices, agonies,

Creations and destroyings, all at once

Pour into the wide hollows of my brain,

And deify me, as if some blithe wine

Or bright elixir peerless I had drunk,

And so become immortal.”— Thus the God, 120

While his enkindled eyes, with level glance

Beneath his white soft temples, stedfast kept

Trembling with light upon Mnemosyne.

Soon wild commotions shook him, and made flush

All the immortal fairness of his limbs;

Most like the struggle at the gate of death;

Or liker still to one who should take leave

Of pale immortal death, and with a pang

As hot as death’s is chill, with fierce convulse

Die into life: so young Apollo anguish’d: 130

His very hair, his golden tresses famed

Kept undulation round his eager neck.

During the pain Mnemosyne upheld

Her arms as one who prophesied. — At length

Apollo shriek’d; — and lo! from all his limbs

Celestial Glory dawn’d, he was a god.

l. 9. bewildered shores. The attribute of the wanderer transferred to the shore. Cf. Nightingale, ll. 14, 67.

l. 10. Delphic. At Delphi worship was given to Apollo, the inventor and god of music.

l. 12. Dorian. There were several ‘modes’ in Greek music, of which the chief were Dorian, Phrygian, and Lydian. Each was supposed to possess certain definite ethical characteristics. Dorian music was martial and manly. Cf. Paradise Lost, i. 549–53.

l. 13. Father of all verse. Apollo, the god of light and song.

ll. 18–19. Let the red . . . well. Cf. Nightingale, st. 2.

l. 19. faint-lipp’d. Cf. ii. 270, ‘mouthed shell.’

l. 23. Cyclades. Islands in the Aegean sea, so called because they surrounded Delos in a circle.

l. 24. Delos, the island where Apollo was born.

l. 31. mother fair, Leto (Latona).

l. 32. twin-sister, Artemis (Diana).

l. 40. murmurous . . . waves. We hear their soft breaking.

ll. 81–2. Cf. Lamia, i. 75.

l. 82. Mnemosyne, daughter of Coelus and Terra, and mother of the Muses. Her name signifies Memory.

l. 86. Cf. Samson Agonistes, ll. 80–2.

l. 87. Cf. Merchant of Venice, I. i. 1–7.

l. 92. liegeless, independent — acknowledging no allegiance.

l. 93. aspirant, ascending. The air will not bear him up.

l. 98. patient . . . moon. Cf. i. 353, ‘patient stars.’ Their still, steady light.

l. 113. So Apollo reaches his divinity — by knowledge which includes experience of human suffering — feeling ‘the giant-agony of the world’.

l. 114. gray, hoary with antiquity.

l. 128. immortal death. Cf. Swinburne’s Garden of Proserpine, st. 7.

Who gathers all things mortal

With cold immortal hands.

l. 136. Filled in, in pencil, in a transcript of Hyperion by Keats’s friend Richard Woodhouse —

Glory dawn’d, he was a god.

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