“Hyperion, A Fragment”: A Summary, Book By Book

Saturn’s Despondency After His Defeat
The Titans were defeated by the Olympians in a war which had started when the Olympians rebelled against the authority of the Titans who had been ruling the universe ever since their conquest of Chaos and Darkness.

Saturn was the chief of the Titans, while Jove or Jupiter was the supreme leader of the Olympians. The grey-haired Saturn had, after his defeat, taken shelter in a remote and shady place in a valley, where he now sat, quiet as a stone. Perfect silence prevailed around him. He was feeling absolutely listless, arid his right hand lay, nerveless, on the ground, looking like the hand of a dead body. There was no longer the divine rod of authority in his hand. He sat there in a state of deep despondency, with his eyes closed.

A Visit By Thea
It seemed that no force would be able to wake up Saturn from his trance. But there did come somebody to wake him up. The visitor was goddess Thea, the wife of the sun-god, Hyperion. She too was a member of the defeated party, and she too was grief-stricken. She woke up Saturn from his listlessness and wanted to know how he was feeling. She told him that she had brought no comfort for him and that she was well aware that he had lost all his power and his authority. She told him that he could continue sleeping and that she would sit at his feet and weep.
Thea’s Suggestion, Accepted By Saturn
Saturn opened his eyes and, looking around him, realized that he was now a deposed monarch who had lost all his kingdom. He told Thea that he had not only lost his empire but his identity and his real self also. He asked her if it would be possible for him to regain his empire. He said that, if it had been possible for him to find another chaos somewhere, he would have created another universe out of it, just as another power had originally created a universe from the primeval Chaos. In reply, Thea suggested that he should visit his fellow-Titans who had taken refuge at a place to which she could escort him. She wanted that Saturn should rejoin his defeated fellow-Titans and comfort them. Saturn accepted her suggestion, and they both set out on their journey.
The Fears of the Undefeated Hyperion, and His Resolve
Some of the defeated Titans had been captured by the victorious gods and been put into prisons. A few of the other Titans were wandering about in the world at large in a disconsolate condition. But the majority of them had taken shelter at the particular place where Thea was now taking Saturn. However, there was one Titan who had still not been defeated and who stills held sway over his sphere. He was Hyperion, the god of the sun. But, although Hyperion, who lived in a splendid and radiant palace and who commanded the blazing planet of the sun, was still sovereign in his own kingdom, he had begun to feel mentally disturbed by certain ill-omens which seemed to indicate that even he could not feel secure and that his authority might also be threatened. The ill-omens almost unnerved Hyperion, but he was able to overcome his fear and, gathering all his strength and will-power, he declared that he would use his terrible right arm to infuse terror into the heart of Jove who had rebelled against the authority of Saturn and that he would even succeed in restoring Saturn’s throne to Saturn.
Hyperion, Urged By Coelus to Go and Meet the Defeated Titans
There were still a few hours before the sun was due to rise. Hyperion had already prepared himself to start the day’s journey. And, though he was impatient to begin the day, he could not commence his task before the due hour. He therefore lay down to while away the few hours which still remained. Although he had formed a strong resolution to fight against Jove, yet his mind was not at ease. The fear of the danger which threatened his supremacy still weighed upon his mind. In this state of mind he heard a voice whispering into his ears. It was the voice of his aged father, Coelus (or Uranus) who now spoke to him from somewhere in heaven. This is what the aged god, Uranus, said to Hyperion:
“You are the brightest of my children. You were born under mysterious circumstances, and the mystery of your birth was not revealed even to me and to your mother. You as well as your brothers and sisters are all manifestations of that beauty which pervades the whole universe. It is very unfortunate that a civil war has taken place among the gods and goddesses, as a result of which my eldest son, Saturn, has been defeated and dethroned. I was in no position to give any help to him. You, my son, are still retaining your authority and governing your dominion. I want you to go down to the earth and meet Saturn and his fellow-gods to see what help you can give to them. It is a bad sign that, while you have all lived and governed your kingdoms with dignity, you are all now experiencing such emotions as fear, anger, and hope which are the feelings characteristic of mankind and not of gods.”
At these words, Hyperion got up and, leaving the planet of the sun in the charge of his father who had spoken to him, plunged noise­lessly into the deep night in order to go down to the earth and meet his fellow-Titans.
The Defeated Gods Feeling Miserable
In the meantime, Saturn and Thea had arrived at the place where most of the defeated Titans had taken refuge in a cave among the rocks. As already pointed out, some of the gods and goddesses were in prison where they were being tortured. These included Coeus, Gyges, Briareus, Typhon, Dolor, and Porhyrion. Some others were wandering about aimlessly in the world. They included Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory; and Phoebs, a daughter of the moon-goddess. Those who had taken shelter in this cave among the rocks included Creus, lapetus, Cottus, Caf, Enceladus, Phorcus, Ocaanus, Tethys, Clymsne, Trutnis, Ops. These gods and goddessss included also Asia, the daughter of the mountain-god Caf by his union with Tellus. All the gods and goddesses assembled here were in a most wretched and miserable condition because of their removal from their respective high positions of authority in the universe.
Saturn’s Address to His Fellow-Gods
On arriving at this place, Saturn felt even sadder than before. This god, who had once wielded supreme authority in the universe, was now experiencing such distressing emotions as rage, fear, anxiety, remorse, and revenge. And he experienced not only these emotions but also that of despair. It seemed that Fate had robbed him of his divine powers and infected him with the weaknesses and infirmities of human beings. Under the stress of these emotions, Saturn might have collapsed to the ground but, by chance, he met the eyes of Enceladus of whose exceptional strength and might he was fully aware. Seeing anger in Enceladus’s eyes, Saturn felt invigorated and strengthened. The presence of Enceladus acted as a great stimulus upon him, and so he shouted to the assembled Titans: “Titans, behold your supreme god”. At Saturn’s words some of the gods groaned, some got up on their feet, some shouted, some wept, some wailed; but all of them bowed to Saturn reverently. Saturn had now conquered his feelings of fear and despair, and he spoke in a self-confident manner. Addressing his fellow-gods, he said:
“I do not understand why you should feel so dejected. Neither in my own heart nor in the book of wisdom which I have always kept close to myself, am I able to discover any reason why you should have given up all hope. There have been no portents to show that we are a doomed race. Seeing you in this mood of dejection, I do not know what message I should give to you. If I ask you to arise, you will groan because you are in no mood to fight; if I ask you to cringe to the conqueror (Jove) you will still groan because your self-respect will be hurt. What can I then do? Tell me, my brother-gods, how we can wreak vengeance upon the rebellious gods who have won a victory over us. You, Oceanus, are a deep thinker. What advice can you give me?”
Oceanus’s Reply
Saturn here ended his speech. Oceanus now replied to Saturn’s question. This is what Oceanus said:
“What I have to say should be a source of comfort to you, provided you can find comfort in what is true. The truth is that we have been defeated not by the power of Jove but in accordance with Nature’s law. Great Saturn, you have studied this universe but, having been accustomed to wield unlimited power, you have missed certain small points which lower minds could easily understand. You should realize that, just as you were not the first power to rule the universe, so you are not the last. You are not the beginning, and you are not the end. We all acquired our positions and our authority after the original chaos and the primeval darkness had been conquered. And just as we are fairer than that chaos and that darkness, those who have now become the rulers of the universe are fairer than we are. On our heels a fresh perfection treads, a power more strong in beauty, a power born of us but destined to surpass us just as we surpass the original chaos and the primeval darkness. Besides, it is not a question of conquest; we have not been conquered by Jove and his comrades just as we did not in any sense conquer chaos and darkness; it is just a question of progress which proceeds inevitably according to the law of Nature. We should not resent having been superseded just as the dull soil does not resent the existence of the grand forests which it has itself nourished and fed, and just as a tree does not resent the dove which sits on its branches and sings. We have ourselves begotten those who have now taken our places as the rulers and, in course of time, they too would be ousted by another race because the law of Nature is that “first in beauty should be first in “might”. I have been succeeded on my throne by another god (Neptune) but I am not resentful of him because he is far more impressive in his appearance and far more handsome than I am. I myself bade farewell to my empire in order to make way for him, even though I felt sad to relinquish my authority. Now what I want is that you should understand the principle which is behind our dethronement, and draw comfort from it.”
Clymene’s Account of Her Strange Experience
None of the gods said anything in response to Oceanus’s speech. The only one who now spoke was the goddess Clymene. She said that she wanted to tell the assembly of the gods an experience which she had gone through in the forest and which had convinced her that the gods who had now come into power after displacing the previous rulers of the universe were really superior to their predecessors. She said that, while singing and playing on a musical instrument on the sea-shore, she had suddenly become conscious of a magic influence which seemed to be coming from an island opposite. She had thereupon thrown away her musical instru­ment and started listening to the music which began to come from the same direction. The music which she heard consisted of a succession of melodious sounds which fell upon her ears one after the other like pearl beads dropping suddenly from their string. She had never heard such music before; and it now made her sick with simultaneous feelings of joy and grief. She was filled with joy because this music was rapturous, and she felt sad because this music was superior to any music which she herself could produce. The feeling of grief proved to be stronger than the feeling of joy and, stopping her ears with her hands, shi fled from that place in order not to hear that music any longer. But a voice, sweeter than all music, followed her, crying: “Apallo! Young Apollo! The morning-bright Apollo!” What Clymene meant by describing this experience of hers was that the music of Apollo, who belonged to the new race of rulers, was far superior to the music which could be produced by the Titans.
Enceladus, Opposed to an Attitude of Passivity and Submission
While both Oceanus and Clymene had wanted to convince the defeated gods that the best course for them would be to reconcile themselves to their present state, Enceladus the Giant felt deeply annoyed with what these two speakers had said. Hi regarded the dethronement of the Titans as an unbearable humiliation and he therefore suggested that the Titans should not give way to despair but should make a vigorous effort to regain their kingdoms. He said that he would tell the Titans how they could destroy the power of Jove and how they could once again become the proud rulers of their realms. He said that he could not forget the days of peace and tranquility which he had enjoyed during the period of the rule of the Titans, and that he would like those days to return. Enceladus went on to say that one of the Titans, namely Hyperion, had still not been displaced and that even the defeated Titans could therefore hope to regain their lost empires. After expressing these views, Enceladus said that he was happy to note that his words had produced the desired effect on his listeners.
Hyperion’s Arrival to Meet the Defeated Gods
Just then Hyperion, who had been urged by Coelus (or Uranus) to go down to the earth in order to meet the defeated Titans, arrived at the scene. When Hyperion alighted on a rock near the cave, where the defeated gods were holding their conference, his radiance filled the atmosphere all around. Every gulf, every chasm, every height, and every depth looked bright with the radiance shed by Hyperion. Hyperion looked at the assembled Titans and noted the wretchedness of the dethroned gods who could now, in the light being shed all around by Hyperion, see how miserable they appeared by contrast with him. But Hyperion was in no joyous mood, because the sight of the defeated and miserable gods filled him also with depression. Four of the gods including the fierce Encealdus now got up and advanced to greet Hyperion. Going near him, these four gods shouted the name of Saturn and, in reply, Hyperion answered from the mountain-peak: “Saturn.” Saturn himself at this time was sitting near the mother of all the gods whose face showed no joy on account of the sad fate which had overtaken her progeny.
Keats to Sing About Apollo
At this point Keats deviates from the story of the Titans which he has been narrating and from the role of Hyperion which he has been describing. He thinks of the premature death of his brother Tom and says that he should turn rather to sing about his own sorrow than about the woes of the gods. But he does not then proceed to sing even about his own personal sorrow. He says that he would like to sing about Apollo, “the father of all verse.” The thought of Apollo fills him with a great enthusiasm and joy, and he calls upon all Nature to put on fresh glory in order to join him in celebrating the greatness of Apollo who was born on the island of Delos. He announces to all Nature that “Apollo is once more the golden theme” of his verse. Evidently, Keats’s purpose now is to take up the theme of the dethronement of Hyperion by Apollo. But Apollo is not yet a god. Keats therefore first takes up the theme of how Apollo became a god.
Apollo’s Encounter with an Awful Goddess
When Hyperion stood radiant in the midst of his grief-stricken fellow-Titans, Apollo left his mother and his twin-sister sleeping in their bower and wandered forth in the morning twilight. Walking through the lilies of the valley at that early hour, when the nightangale had just stopped singing and when there were only a few stars left in the sky, Apollo came to a stop on the banks of a stream and suddenly burst into tears. While he stood there weeping, with his golden bow in his hand, an awful goddess came and stood before him. Apollo was surprised to see this mysterious figure who seemed to have come from nowhere. He then realized that he had always been conscious of the presence of this goddess on this island and that he had often heard the sweep of her garments over the fallen leaves as she walked about in the valley and in the forest. He told the goddess that he had either actually seen her before on this island or had dreamed of her. The goddess replied that he had dreamed of her and that, on waking up from his dream, he had found a golden lyre which she had placed for him by his side. From the strings of that lyre he had produced sweet music which the whole universe had heard with both pain and pleasure, realizing that a new kind of music had come into existence.
The Goddess’s Deep Interest in Apollo
The goddess now asked Apollo why he had been weeping and what it was that had been making him so sad. She told him that she had been keeping a watch upon him during his hours of sleep and during his hours of wakefulness ever since his childhood. She said that she had given up her allegiance to the old gods for his sake and for the sake of the new loveliness which he possessed and the new music which he had originated.
Apollo’s “Aching Ignorance”
Thereupon Apollo suddenly realized who this goddess was. He said that her name had suddenly occurred to him and that she must be Mnemosyne. Then he said that his sorrow, which had made him shed tears, was not a mystery to her and that she knew everything about him. He went on to say that there were certain things which he did not understand. He wanted the goddess Mnemosyne to clear his doubts about certain matters. He wanted to know the nature of the stars, the identity of the power behind the forces of Nature, the divinity who ruled the universe, and the reason why he was often overtaken by a melancholy which was so deep as to have a numbing effect on his limbs. He asked her to tell him why he often listened to the sounds of the elements “in fearless yet in aching ignorance.”
The Deification of Apollo, Or Keats’s Emergence as a True Poet
Mnemosyne remained silent. Apollo’s mind was now suddenly illumined by a new discovery. He said that he could read a wonderful lesson in the goddess’s silent face. “Knowledge enormous makes a god of me”, he said. Then he told her what he could read in her face. Her face had brought to him a sudden awareness of “names, deeds, old legends, dire events, rebellions, majesties, sovereign voices, agonies, creations and destroyings.” This new awareness, he said, was like a wine or an elixir which seemed to deify him and make him immortal. As he said these words, keeping his eyes steadfast on Mnemosyne, he experienced wild convulsions which shook his whole body. He underwent an agonizing experience. The agony which he felt was akin to the agony of death. While he was going through this painful ordeal, Mnemosyne kept her arms upraised like one who was making a prophecy. At last Apollo shrieked with joy and ecstasy, and from all his limbs came a glory which showed that he had become a god. Apollo had died into life. Apollo the mortal was dead bat Apollo the god was born. In other words, Apollo had risen to great heights of poetry and music by his contact with Mnemosyne who symbolized all human experience, all experience which mankind had had in the past and an awareness of which is a necessary part of the equipment of a poet. (Mnemosyne represents not only the past of mankind but also the present and even the future. The deification of Apollo means that Keats himself feels that he has become a true poet because of his realization that a keen and sensitive awareness of the reality of all human experience is essential if a poet wants to write true poetry).
Note. Here the poem breaks off.

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