Influence of Spenser and Milton on “Hyperion”

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Blend of Spenser and Milton, not equal

      The remark that Hyperion gives us a blend of Spenser and Milton must be read with caution. It does not mean that the blend is equal or that Keats was equally influenced by Milton and Spenser. In fact, it was through Spenser that Keats had a feeling for Milton. To put it in a yet simpler language, Keats exhibits here greater influence of Spenser than of Milton. The influence of Milton is confined to the epic character of the poem and even there Keats has failed to live up to the Miltonic standards of an epic. On the other hand, Keats has been able to do full justice in imbibing the Spensarian influence and interweaving it well in the fiber of his poetic genius. The factor responsible for this difference between the treatment of two influences is Keats’s personal poetic nature and bent of mind which was more akin to Spenser than to Milton.

Picturesque quality

      Keats exhibits a very strong influence of Spenser while drawing pictures. The picture of the beauty of nature drawn while describing the scene at Apollo’s morning walk can be cited as a very appropriate example:

“And in the morning twilight wandered forth
Beside the osiers of a rivulet.
Full ankle-deep in lillies of the wave,
The nightingale had ceas’d, and few stars
Were lingering in the heaven, while the thrush
Began calm throated. Throughout all the isle
There was no covert, no retired cave
Undaunted by the murmurous noise of waves Though scarcely heard in many a green recess”.

Keats: how far Miltonic and how far un-Miltonic

      As far as the influence of Milton is concerned, it is in many ways, indirect and the connecting medium is Spenser. It is from Spenser that Keats has slightly derived the decorative charm of Milton’s pastoral poetry Again Keats has made a very interesting blend of Miltonic sonority with Spensarian smoothness. Right in the manner of Milton, Keats took up a theme of the epic standard and tried to give it the treatment of an epic. Keats portrayed his fallen Titans under the influence of Milton’s description of the fallen gods. Again, the speeches of Enceladus and Oceanus in Hyperion carry with them, a bearing of the speeches of Moloch and Belial respectively in Paradise. Lost, and there the similarity ends. The similarity with Milton is confined only to that area of work where Keats is supposed to complete the theoretical formalities. When it comes to the practical aspects of the poem as an epic, Keats fails to give a satisfactory performance. The picture of Thea’s huge size is On the verge of becoming an unimpressive and prosaic description :

“She was a Goddess of the infant world,
By her in Stature the fall 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 place court,
When sages look’d to Egypt for their love”.

      The emphasis on the sheer size of Thea is grotesque and very much on the verge of becoming a comedy. In comparison to this Milton suggests the huge physical dimensions of Satan in a very subtle and effective manner. Keats has shown equal poverty of poetic skill while catching moments of dramatic importance and has failed to produce the desired effects. The beginning of Hyperion’s first speech has not been able to generate that anxiety in the reader which is essential for a situation of dramatic significance: “O dream of day and night:

Why could Keats not imbibe the Miltonic spirit completely

      Keats’s failure in imbibing the Miltonic spirit was responsible for the discontinuation of Hyperion, He himself wrote in one of his letters: “I have given up Hyperion, there were too many Miltonic inversions in it—Miltonic verse cannot be written but in an artful, or rather, artist’s humor. I wish to give myself up to other sensations. English ought to be kept up”. Keats claims to have given up Hyperion in the interest of keeping up the English language because in his opinion Milton’s language was artificial, and Milton himself was a corrupter of English language. Here we will like to differ from Keats. In fact, he could not reach that Miltonic perfection of form and conception which is essential for writing a first-rate epic. He did not have the God-gifted organ voice of Milton. Keats shows success only when he is looking at Milton through the eyes of Spenser and it is in this restricted sense that we can say that Hyperion gives us Milton felt through Spenser.

University Questions

Keats looked at Milton through the eyes of Spenser. Elaborate.

“Hyperion fives us a blend of Spenser and Milton, or, to put the matter more suggestively, it gives us Milton ‘felt through’ Spenser”. Discuss

Keats’s Hyperion exhibits a greater influence of Spenser than of Milton. Do you agree? Give reasons.

Keats’s poetic genius had more of the Speansarian that than Miltonic. Elaborate.
But for Spenser Keats would have shown a lesser influence of Milton. Elucidate.

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