The Old and New Views of Human Experience in Hyperion

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What were the two experiences?

      For a very long period in his life, Keats continued to suffer from the strains of a struggle between two human experiences of an entirely different nature, one pertaining to the world of reality and the other to the world of ideal values The works of his early poetic career show him trying to set a compromise between the two experiences, but he fails to attain total success there. Incidentally Hyperion also belongs to the same phase of Keats’s poetic development.

Hyperion, a failure in compromising the two experiences

      It is through Apollo that Keats portrays himself in Hyperion. Apollo is an artist like Keats. He is trying to achieve absolute perfection in the field of his art. Keats shows Apollo undergoing a struggle that gives him knowledge enormous and makes a god of him. Given that Apollo is no other than Keats himself the question arises whether it is possible for a man living upon earth to become a god. Obviously the answer cannot be but negative. This goes to prove that in Hyperion Keats has not reached that stage of poetic maturity in which he can be rich with the realization that it is just not possible for him to attain the perfection of an ideal world of art. While trying to show Apollo as a god, Keats is just living in a world of make-believe and self-deception. In Hyperion Keats has failed to set a compromise between the two different human experiences.

Keats’s “Odes’’, a mirror of compromise between two experiences

      It shall be in fitness of things to add here that it is in his “Odes’’ that Keats finally draws a compromise between the two experiences. He cherishes the immortality of the nightingale and the urn and the artistic beauty of their world, but at the same time, unlike Apollo, he is not trying to become an immortal god. He has already realized that he cannot afford to live the immortality of the nightingale or the urn. Just one word ‘Forforn’ is enough to toll him back from the world of the nightingale to the world of reality though it is a place still as full of the woe of the human fever and fret as ever. Same way he has realized the dull immortality of the Grecian Urn and knows that with all its immortality with it, it is a cold pastoral. It is this compromise between the two human experiences that we find wanting in Hyperion.

University Questions

A part of Hyperion embodies Keats’s two different experiences. Judge Hyperion in the light of Keats’s handling of the two experiences.

Does Hyperion show Keats at his best in setting a compromise between two experiences of his life? Give reasons for your answer.

Where Keats’s Hyperion fails, there his odes stand high. Taking this statement as a hint, compare the third book of Hyperion Keats’s Odes.

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