Hyperion. 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 above 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.
    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,
    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.
    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
    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 tenor and deep organ tone:
    Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue
    Would come in these like accents; O how frail
    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,
    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?
    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,
    Just where her fallen 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,
    And all the gloom and sorrow ofthe 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,
    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,
    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.
    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 mustit must
    Be of ripe progressSaturn 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
    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
    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,
    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:
    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'reigny, and rule, and majesy;
    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
    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;
    And all its curtains of Aurorian clouds
    Flush'd angerly: while sometimes eagles' 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
    Savor of poisonous brass and metal sick:
    And so, when harbor'd in the sleepy west,
    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 offear; like anxious men
    Who on wide plains gather in panting troops,
    When earthquakes jar their battlements and towers.
    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,
    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,
    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!
    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.
    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."
    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,
    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,
    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 laboring thought
    Won from the gaze of many centuries:
    Now lost, save what we find on remnants huge
    Of stone, or rnarble 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
    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
    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
    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, O brightest child!
    Of these, thy brethren and the Goddesses!
    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,
    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;
    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
    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.


facebook share button twitter share button google plus share button tumblr share button reddit share button email share button share on pinterest pinterest

Create a library and add your favorite stories. Get started by clicking the "Add" button.
Add Hyperion. Book I to your own personal library.

Return to the John Keats Home Page, or . . . Read the next poem; Hyperion. Book II

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.