Hymn of Apollo: Poem Critical Analysis

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The sleepless Hours who watch me as I lie,
Curtained with star-inwoven tapestries
From the broad moonlight of the sky,
Fanning the busy dreams from my dim eyes,—
Waken me when their Mother, the grey Dawn,
Tells them that dreams and that the moon is gone.

Then I arise, and climbing Heaven's blue dome,
I walk over the mountains and the waves,
Leaving my robe upon the ocean foam;
My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves
Are filled with my bright presence, and the air
Leaves the green Earth to my embraces bare.

The sunbeams are my shafts, with which I kill
Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day;
All men who do or even imagine ill
For me, and from the glory of my ray
Good minds and open actions take new might,
Until diminished by the reign of Night.

I feed the clouds, the rainbows and the flowers
With their aethereal colours; the moon's globe
And the pure stars in their eternal bowers
Are cinctured with my power as with a robe;
Whatever lamps on earth or Heaven may shine
Are portions of one power, which is mine.

I stand at noon upon the peak of Heaven,
Then with unwilling I wander down
Into the clouds of the Atlantic even;
For grief that I depart they weep and frown:
What look is more delightful than smile
With which I soothe them from the western isle?

I am the eye with which the Universe
Beholds itself and knows itself divine;
All harmony of instrument or verse,
All prophecy, all medicine are mine,
All light of art or nature;—to my song,
Victory and praise in their own right belong.

Critical Appreciation & Analysis

      The second of Mrs. Shelley's dramas is called Midas, and it deals with the Greek legends of Midas, King of Phrygia. One of these stories tells how Midas acted as judge at a singing competition between the gods Apollo and Pan, and gave the prize to Pan. As a punishment, Apollo gave him the ears of an ass. This story forms the theme of the first act of Mrs. Shelley's drama.

      The Hymns of Apollo and Pan were written by Shelley, in 1820, to be sung by the two gods in the singing competition. Both Hymns were published by Mrs. Shelley in 1824. According to Stopford A. Brooke, Hymn of Apollo is a concentration of two ages of human thought concerning Nature. It is a short record of the progress of human thought from the mythical to the philosophical conception of Nature.

      Shelley's wonderful myth-making power is revealed in this poem. He personifies each object of Nature; it is of pure nature-myth and not borrowed.

      This poem's meter is that of six-line Stanza of Shakespeare's Venus aind Adonais. There is a slight irregularity in the third line of the first Stanza, which has eight syllables instead of the usual ten. Apollo the sun-god sleeps in the bed formed by the sky and is screened from the moonlight by the star-interwoven tapestries. The sleepless Hours are personified as watchers who keep watch on the sun-god. Their mother, grey Dawn warns them to awaken Apollo, for the moon and the dreams have disappeared. Awakened by them, Apollo walks over the mountains and the waves. He leaves his robe upon the ocean foam; paves the clouds With fire; the caves are filled with his bright presence; and he embraces the Earth; with shafts of sunbeams, he kills deceit who loves night and fears day; his presence removes the evil thoughts from the mind and inspires new thoughts and actions which are diminished by the reign of Night. He feeds the clouds, rainbows and flowers with the real colors; the Moon, the Earth and Heaven are portions of his own power. He stands on the peak of Heaven and unwillingly sets into the Atlantic ocean.

      Finally, he concludes that he is the eye with which the Universe beholds itself and knows itself divine. He is the master of everything— prophecy, medicine, art, nature. Shelley finds 'One’ universal life pervading in all objects of nature.


      Hours—The hours of day and night. Here, hour is personified; I— Apollo, Greek sun-god; Star-inwoven tapestries—a brilliant piece of metaphor. The night sky is seen here as a tapestries—a thick fabric, decorated canvas—studded with stars; Fanning the busy dreams—driving away all the activities of dreams.

      Pave the clouds with fire—the clouds glow as the sunlight falls upon it; The air...bare—In contact with the warmth of sunlight air becomes lights and goes up above the earth's surface level.

      Shafts—dart or arrow;

       Aethereal colours—delicate, beautiful colours; Eternal bower—the sky; Are cinctured...robe—starlight is the relected light of sun or Apollo. Apollo is the source of light or power. Whatever...which is mine—all the illuminated bodies in this solar system emit reflected light of sun.

      For grief...western isle?—as the sun sets down the clouds lament over his departure but consoled by the dim illumination of the setting sun; western isle—The fictitious Happy Isles which is, according to Greek mythology, lacated beyond the strait of Gibraltar. Shelley has considered it as a single island.

      I am the eye...right belong—last stanza of the poem reveals Shelley's poetic representation welded with scientific accuracy. The sun being the source of energy in this universe has become an image of all-pervading, all powerful divine spirit of this universe. Also, in Greek mythology, Apollo is the god of music, prophecy and medicine.

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