Miltonic Influence on Keats “Hyperion”

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Influence on the design of the poem

      Keats’s Hyperion exhibits a strong influence of Milton on Keats. The influence can be seen both in the design and manner of bis poem. Sometimes the influence results from Keats’s conscious imitation of Milton, while more than often it is due to an unconscious echo of the Miltonic music. As far as the design of Hyperion is concerned, Keats, very much in the manner of Milton chooses a theme of the epic standard to be the subject of his poem. The fallen Titans are the subject of Keats’s poem whereas Milton’s subject is the story of the fallen gods. Keats presents his Titans as already dethroned same way as Milton shows the devils as already removed from their hierarchy. Hyperion is the only Titan left undisgraced and like Milton’s Satan he is the last hope of any recovery from their fall. The council of the fallen Titans gives echoes of the assembly of Milton’s fallen gods. Keats’s Enceladus, while advising open war to the Titans reminds us of Milton’s Molach, whereas Oceanus, like Belial, is in favor of accepting the failure as inevitable.

Influence on the style of the poem

      Coming to the style of Hyperion, it bears a still more powerful stamp of Milton. The introduction of un-English expression which was not a characteristic of Keats’s poetry speaks of the undue influence that Paradise Lost had on Hyperion, Keats imitated Milton’s verbal habits in order to give to his poem, the grandeur of Milton. Keats made use of Miltonic inversions so repeatedly in his poem that he himself started realizing their excessive presence. There are numerous instances of a noun followed by an adjective:

“Knowledge enormous makes a God of me.”

      Keats has made a further use of Miltonic inversions by placing the verb before the noun:

'‘Thus grew it up’’.
“There saw she direst strife”.

      Keats has made use of Miltonic ‘repetitions’ also, which are one of the most characteristic and effective features of the style of Paradise Lost. The words and phrases have been repeated in a different relation, at times for emphasis or musical effect and at times for both combined. Keats has done this with a singular success.

“How beautiful, if sorrow had not made
Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty’s self”.
“Now comes the pain of truth, to whom 'tis pain”.
“My life is but the life of winds and tides.
No more than winds and tides can I avail”.


      Thus we see that the influence of Milton was the most powerful literary influence exercised by any single writer upon the mind of Keats. Still the fundamental fact remains that basically Hyperion is not a Miltonic poem. It is Keatsian through and through. It bears a stamp of the characteristic rich beauty of Keats’s style which speaks for itself in the following passage:

“No stir of air was there
Not so much life as on a summer’s day
Robs not one light seed from the feathered grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest”.

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