Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream CANTO I

  • Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave
  • A paradise for a sect; the savage too
  • From forth the loftiest fashion of his sleep
  • Guesses at heaven pity these have not
  • Trac’d upon vellum or wild Indian leaf
  • The shadows of melodious utterance.
  • But bare of laurel they live, dream and die;
  • For Poesy alone can tell her dreams,
  • With the fine spell of words alone can save
  • Imagination from the sable charm
  • And dumb enchantment. Who alive can say
  • “Thou art no poet; mayst not tell thy dreams”?
  • Since every man whose soul is not a clod
  • Hath visions, and would speak, if he had lov’d
  • And been well nurtured in his mother tongue.
  • Whether the dream now purposed to rehearse
  • Be poet’s or fanatic’s will be known
  • When this warm scribe my hand is in the grave.
  • Methought I stood where trees of every clime,
  • Palm, myrtle, oak, and sycamore, and beech,
  • With plantane, and spice blossoms, made a screen;
  • In neighbourhood of fountains, by the noise
  • Soft showering in mine ears; and, by the touch
  • Of scent, not far from roses. Turning round,
  • I saw an arbour with a drooping roof
  • Of trellis vines, and bells, and larger blooms,
  • Like floral-censers swinging light in air;
  • Before its wreathed doorway, on a mound
  • Of moss, was spread a feast of summer fruits,
  • Which nearer seen, seem’d refuse of a meal
  • By angel tasted, or our mother Eve;
  • For empty shells were scattered on the grass,
  • And grape stalks but half bare, and remnants more,
  • Sweet smelling, whose pure kinds I could not know.
  • Still was more plenty than the fabled horn
  • Thrice emptied could pour forth, at banqueting
  • For Proserpine return’d to her own fields,
  • Where the white heifers low. And appetite
  • More yearning than on earth I ever felt
  • Growing within, I ate deliciously;
  • And, after not long, thirsted, for thereby
  • Stood a cool vessel of transparent juice,
  • Sipp’d by the wander’d bee, the which I took,
  • And, pledging all the mortals of the world,
  • And all the dead whose names are in our lips,
  • Drank. That full draught is parent of my theme.
  • No Asian poppy, nor elixir fine
  • Of the soon fading jealous caliphat;
  • No poison gender’d in close monkish cell
  • To thin the scarlet conclave of old men,
  • Could so have rapt unwilling life away.
  • Among the fragrant husks and berries crush’d,
  • Upon the grass I struggled hard against
  • The domineering potion; but in vain:
  • The cloudy swoon came on, and down I sunk
  • Like Silenus on an antique vase.
  • How long I slumber’d ’tis a chance to guess.
  • When sense of life return’d, I started up
  • As if with wings; but the fair trees were gone,
  • The mossy mound and arbour were no more;
  • I look’d around upon the carved sides
  • Of an old sanctuary with roof august,
  • Builded so high, it seem’d that filmed clouds
  • Might spread beneath, as o’er the stars of heaven;
  • So old the place was, I remembered none
  • The like upon the earth what I had seen
  • Of grey cathedrals, buttress’d walls, rent towers,
  • The superannuations of sunk realms,
  • Or nature’s rocks toil’d hard in waves and winds,
  • Seem’d but the faulture of decrepit things
  • To that eternal domed monument.
  • Upon the marble at my feet there lay
  • Store of strange vessels, and large draperies,
  • Which needs had been of dyed asbestos wove,
  • Or in that place the moth could not corrupt,
  • So white the linen; so, in some, distinct
  • Ran imageries from a sombre loom.
  • All in a mingled heap confus’d there lay
  • Robes, golden tongs, censer, and chafing dish,
  • Girdles, and chains, and holy jewelries.
  • Turning from these with awe, once more I rais’d
  • My eyes to fathom the space every way;
  • The embossed roof, the silent massy range
  • Of columns north and south, ending in mist
  • Of nothing; then to eastward, where black gates
  • Were shut against the sunrise evermore.
  • Then to the west I look’d, and saw far off
  • An image, huge of feature as a cloud,
  • At level of whose feet an altar slept,
  • To be approach’d on either side by steps,
  • And marble balustrade, and patient travail
  • To count with toil the innumerable degrees.
  • Towards the altar sober-pac’d I went,
  • Repressing haste, as too unholy there;
  • And, coming nearer, saw beside the shrine
  • One minist’ring; and there arose a flame.
  • When in mid-May the sickening east wind
  • Shifts sudden to the south, the small warm rain
  • Melts out the frozen incense from all flowers,
  • And fills the air with so much pleasant health
  • That even the dying man forgets his shroud;
  • Even so that lofty sacrificial fire,
  • Sending forth Maian incense, spread around
  • Forgetfulness of everything but bliss,
  • And clouded all the altar with soft smoke,
  • From whose white fragrant curtains thus I heard
  • Language pronounc’d. “If thou canst not ascend
  • These steps, die on that marble where thou art.
  • Thy flesh, near cousin to the common dust,
  • Will parch for lack of nutriment — thy bones
  • Will wither in few years, and vanish so
  • That not the quickest eye could find a grain
  • Of what thou now art on that pavement cold.
  • The sands of thy short life are spent this hour,
  • And no hand in the universe can turn
  • Thy hour glass, if these gummed leaves be burnt
  • Ere thou canst mount up these immortal steps.”
  • I heard, I look’d two senses both at once
  • So fine, so subtle, felt the tyranny
  • Of that fierce threat, and the hard task proposed.
  • Prodigious seem’d the toil, the leaves were yet
  • Burning, — when suddenly a palsied chill
  • Struck from the paved level up my limbs,
  • And was ascending quick to put cold grasp
  • Upon those streams that pulse beside the throat:
  • I shriek’d; and the sharp anquish of my shriek
  • Stung my own ears — I strove hard to escape
  • The numbness; strove to gain the lowest step.
  • Slow, heavy, deadly was my pace: the cold
  • Grew stifling, suffocating, at the heart;
  • And when I clasp’d my hands I felt them not.
  • One minute before death, my iced foot touch’d
  • The lowest stair; and as it touch’d, life seem’d
  • To pour in at the toes I mounted up,
  • As once fair angels on a ladder flew
  • From the green turf to heaven. — “Holy Power,”
  • Cried I, approaching near the horned shrine,
  • “What am I that should so be sav’d from death?
  • What am I that another death come not
  • To choak my utterance sacrilegious here?”
  • Then said the veiled shadow — “Thou hast felt
  • What ’tis to die and live again before
  • Thy fated hour. That thou hadst power to do so
  • Is thy own safety; thou hast dated on
  • Thy doom.”—“High Prophetess,” said I, “purge off
  • Benign, if so it please thee, my mind’s film.”
  • “None can usurp this height,” returned that shade,
  • “But those to whom the miseries of the world
  • Are misery, and will not let them rest.
  • All else who find a haven in the world,
  • Where they may thoughtless sleep away their days,
  • If by a chance into this fane they come,
  • Rot on the pavement where thou rotted’st half.”—
  • “Are there not thousands in the world,” said I,
  • Encourag’d by the sooth voice of the shade,
  • “Who love their fellows even to the death;
  • Who feel the giant agony of the world;
  • And more, like slaves to poor humanity,
  • Labour for mortal good? I sure should see
  • Other men here but I am here alone.”
  • “They whom thou spak’st of are no vision’ries,”
  • Rejoin’d that voice — “They are no dreamers weak,
  • They seek no wonder but the human face;
  • No music but a happy-noted voice —
  • They come not here, they have no thought to come —
  • And thou art here, for thou art less than they.
  • What benefit canst thou do, or all thy tribe,
  • To the great world? Thou art a dreaming thing;
  • A fever of thyself — think of the earth;
  • What bliss even in hope is there for thee?
  • What haven? Every creature hath its home;
  • Every sole man hath days of joy and pain,
  • Whether his labour be sublime or low —
  • The pain alone; the joy alone; distinct
  • Only the dreamer venoms all his days,
  • Bearing more woe than all his sins deserve.
  • Therefore, that happiness be somewhat shar’d,
  • Such things as thou art are admitted oft
  • Into like gardens thou didst pass erewhile,
  • And suffer’d in these temples; for that cause
  • Thou standest safe beneath this statue’s knees.”
  • “That I am favored for unworthiness,
  • By such propitious parley medicin’d
  • In sickness not ignoble, I rejoice,
  • Aye, and could weep for love of such award.”
  • So answer’d I, continuing, “if it please,
  • Majestic shadow, tell me sure not all
  • Those melodies sung into the world’s ear
  • Are useless: sure a poet is a sage;
  • A humanist, physician to all men.
  • That I am none I feel, as vultures feel
  • They are no birds when eagles are abroad.
  • What am I then? Thou spakest of my tribe
  • What tribe?” — The tall shade veil’d in drooping white
  • Then spake, so much more earnest, that the breath
  • Move’d the thin linen folds that drooping hung
  • About a golden censer from the hand
  • Pendent. — “Art thou not of the dreamer tribe?
  • The poet and the dreamer are distinct,
  • Diverse, sheer opposite, antipodes.
  • The one pours out a balm upon the world,
  • The other vexes it.” Then shouted I
  • Spite of myself, and with a Pythia’s spleen,
  • “Apollo! faded, farflown Apollo!
  • Where is thy misty pestilence to creep
  • Into the dwellings, thro’ the door crannies,
  • Of all mock lyrists, large self-worshipers,
  • And careless hectorers in proud bad verse.
  • Tho I breathe death with them it will be life
  • To see them sprawl before me into graves.
  • Majestic shadow, tell me where I am,
  • Whose altar this; for whom this incense curls
  • What image this, whose face I cannot see,
  • For the broad marble knees; and who thou art,
  • Of accent feminine, so courteous.”
  • Then the tall shade, in drooping linens veil’d,
  • Spake out, so much more earnest, that her breath
  • Stirr’d the thin folds of gauze that drooping hung
  • About a golden censer from her hand
  • Pendent; and by her voice I knew she shed
  • Long treasured tears. “This temple sad and lone
  • Is all spar’d from the thunder of a war
  • Foughten long since by giant hierarchy
  • Against rebellion this old image here,
  • Whose carved features wrinkled as he fell,
  • Is Saturn’s; I, Moneta, left supreme
  • Sole priestess of his desolation.” —
  • I had no words to answer; for my tongue,
  • Useless, could find about its roofed home
  • No syllable of a fit majesty
  • To make rejoinder to Moneta’s mourn.
  • There was a silence while the altar’s blaze
  • Was fainting for sweet food I look’d thereon,
  • And on the paved floor, where nigh were pil’d
  • Faggots of cinnamon, and many heaps
  • Of other crisped spicewood — then again
  • I look’d upon the altar and its horns
  • Whiten’d with ashes, and its lang’rous flame,
  • And then upon the offerings again;
  • And so by turns — till sad Moneta cried,
  • “The sacrifice is done, but not the less,
  • Will I be kind to thee for thy good will.
  • My power, which to me is still a curse,
  • Shall be to thee a wonder; for the scenes
  • Still swooning vivid through my globed brain
  • With an electral changing misery
  • Thou shalt with those dull mortal eyes behold,
  • Free from all pain, if wonder pain thee not.”
  • As near as an immortal’s sphered words
  • Could to a mother’s soften, were these last:
  • But yet I had a terror of her robes,
  • And chiefly of the veils, that from her brow
  • Hung pale, and curtain’d her in mysteries
  • That made my heart too small to hold its blood.
  • This saw that Goddess, and with sacred hand
  • Parted the veils. Then saw I a wan face,
  • Not pin’d by human sorrows, but bright blanch’d
  • By an immortal sickness which kills not;
  • It works a constant change, which happy death
  • Can put no end to; deathwards progressing
  • To no death was that visage; it had pass’d
  • The lily and the snow; and beyond these
  • I must not think now, though I saw that face —
  • But for her eyes I should have fled away.
  • They held me back, with a benignant light,
  • Soft mitigated by divinest lids
  • Half closed, and visionless entire they seem’d
  • Of all external things — they saw me not,
  • But in blank splendor beam’d like the mild moon,
  • Who comforts those she sees not, who knows not
  • What eyes are upward cast. As I had found
  • A grain of gold upon a mountain’s side,
  • And twing’d with avarice strain’d out my eyes
  • To search its sullen entrails rich with ore,
  • So at the view of sad moneta’s brow,
  • I ached to see what things the hollow brain
  • Behind enwombed what high tragedy
  • In the dark secret chambers of her skull
  • Was acting, that could give so dread a stress
  • To her cold lips, and fill with such a light
  • Her planetary eyes; and touch her voice
  • With such a sorrow — “Shade of Memory!”
  • Cried I, with act adorant at her feet,
  • “By all the gloom hung round thy fallen house,
  • By this last temple, by the golden age,
  • By great Apollo, thy dear foster child,
  • And by thyself, forlorn divinity,
  • The pale Omega of a wither’d race,
  • Let me behold, according as thou said’st,
  • What in thy brain so ferments to and fro.”—
  • No sooner had this conjuration pass’d
  • My devout lips; than side by side we stood,
  • (Like a stunt bramble by a solemn pine)
  • Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
  • Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
  • Far from the fiery noon and eve’s one star.
  • Onward I look’d beneath the gloomy boughs,
  • And saw, what first I thought an image huge,
  • Like to the image pedestal’d so high
  • In Saturn’s temple. Then Moneta’s voice
  • Came brief upon mine ear, — “So Saturn sat
  • When he had lost his realms” — Whereon there grew
  • A power within me of enormous ken,
  • To see as a God sees, and take the depth
  • Of things as nimbly as the outward eye
  • Can size and shape pervade. The lofty theme
  • At those few words hung vast before my mind,
  • With half unravel’d web. I set myself
  • Upon an eagle’s watch, that I might see,
  • And seeing ne’er forget. No stir of life
  • Was in this shrouded vale, not so much air
  • As in the zoning of a summer’s day
  • Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,
  • But where the dead leaf fell there did it rest:
  • A stream went voiceless by, still deaden’d more
  • By reason of the fallen divinity
  • Spreading more shade the Naiad ’mid her reeds
  • Press’d her cold finger closer to her lips.
  • Along the margin sand large footmarks went
  • No farther than to where old Saturn’s feet
  • Had rested, and there slept, how long a sleep!
  • Degraded, cold, upon the sodden ground
  • His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead,
  • Unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were clos’d,
  • While his bow’d head seem’d listening to the Earth,
  • His antient mother, for some comfort yet.
  • It seem’d no force could wake him from his place;
  • But there came one who with a kindred hand
  • Touch’d his wide shoulders, after bending low
  • With reverence, though to one who knew it not.
  • Then came the griev’d voice of Mnemosyne,
  • And griev’d I hearken’d. “That divinity
  • Whom thou saw’st step from yon forlornest wood,
  • And with slow pace approach our fallen King,
  • Is Thea, softest-natur’d of our brood.”
  • I mark’d the goddess in fair statuary
  • Surpassing wan Moneta by the head,
  • And in her sorrow nearer woman’s tears.
  • There was a listening fear in her regard,
  • As if calamity had but begun;
  • As if the vanward clouds of evil days
  • Had spent their malice, and the sullen rear
  • Was with its stored thunder labouring up.
  • One hand she press’d upon that aching spot
  • Where beats the human heart; as if just there
  • Though an immortal, she felt cruel pain;
  • The other upon Saturn’s bended neck
  • She laid, and to the level of his hollow ear
  • Leaning, with parted lips, some words she spake
  • In solemn tenor and deep organ tune;
  • Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue
  • Would come in this-like accenting; how frail
  • To that large utterance of the early Gods! —
  • “Saturn! look up — and for what, poor lost King?
  • I have no comfort for thee, no — not one;
  • I cannot cry, Wherefore thus sleepest thou?
  • For heaven is parted from thee, and the earth
  • Knows thee not, so afflicted, for a God;
  • And ocean too, with all its solemn noise,
  • Has from the sceptre pass’d, and all the air
  • Is emptied of thine hoary majesty.
  • Thy thunder, captious at the new command,
  • Rumbles reluctant o’er our fallen house;
  • And thy sharp lightning in unpracticed hands
  • Scorches and burns our once serene domain.
  • With such remorseless speed still come new woes
  • That unbelief has not a space to breathe.
  • Saturn, sleep on:—Me thoughtless, why should I
  • Thus violate thy slumbrous solitude?
  • Why should I ope thy melancholy eyes?
  • Saturn, sleep on, while at thy feet I weep.”
  • As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
  • Forests, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
  • Dream, and so dream all night, without a noise,
  • Save from one gradual solitary gust,
  • Swelling upon the silence; dying off;
  • As if the ebbing air had but one wave;
  • So came these words, and went; the while in tears
  • She press’d her fair large forehead to the earth,
  • Just where her fallen hair might spread in curls,
  • A soft and silken mat for Saturn’s feet.
  • Long, long, those two were postured motionless,
  • Like sculpture builded up upon the grave
  • Of their own power. A long awful time
  • I look’d upon them; still they were the same;
  • The frozen God still bending to the earth,
  • And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet.
  • Moneta silent. Without stay or prop
  • But my own weak mortality, I bore
  • The load of this eternal quietude,
  • The unchanging gloom, and the three fixed shapes
  • Ponderous upon my senses a whole moon.
  • For by my burning brain I measured sure
  • Her silver seasons shedded on the night
  • And ever day by day methought I grew
  • More gaunt and ghostly — oftentimes I pray’d
  • Intense, that death would take me from the vale
  • And all its burthens — gasping with despair
  • Of change, hour after hour I curs’d myself
  • Until old Saturn rais’d his faded eyes,
  • And look’d around and saw his kingdom gone,
  • And all the gloom and sorrow of the place,
  • And that fair kneeling Goddess at his feet.
  • As the moist scent of flowers, and grass, and leaves
  • Fills forest dells with a pervading air,
  • Known to the woodland nostril, so the words
  • Of Saturn fill’d the mossy glooms around,
  • Even to the hollows of time-eaten oaks,
  • And to the winding in the foxes’ holes,
  • With sad low tones, while thus he spake, and sent
  • Strange musings to the solitary Pan.
  • “Moan, brethren, moan; for we are swallow’d up
  • And buried from all godlike exercise
  • Of influence benign on planets pale,
  • And peaceful sway above man’s harvesting,
  • And all those acts which deity supreme
  • Doth ease its heart of love in. Moan and wail.
  • Moan, brethren, moan; for lo! the rebel spheres
  • Spin round, the stars their antient courses keep,
  • Clouds still with shadowy moisture haunt the earth,
  • Still suck their fill of light from sun and moon,
  • Still buds the tree, and still the sea-shores murmur.
  • There is no death in all the universe
  • No smell of death — there shall be death — Moan, moan,
  • Moan, Cybele, moan, for thy pernicious babes
  • Have chang’d a God into a shaking palsy.
  • Moan, brethren, moan, for I have no strength left,
  • Weak as the reed — weak — feeble as my voice —
  • O, O, the pain, the pain of feebleness.
  • Moan, moan; for still I thaw—or give me help:
  • Throw down those imps, and give me victory.
  • Let me hear other groans; and trumpets blown
  • Of triumph calm, and hymns of festival
  • From the gold peaks of heaven’s high piled clouds;
  • Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir
  • Of strings in hollow shells; and let there be
  • Beautiful things made new, for the surprize
  • Of the sky-children.” — So he feebly ceas’d,
  • With such a poor and sickly sounding pause,
  • Methought I heard some old man of the earth
  • Bewailing earthly loss; nor could my eyes
  • And ears act with that pleasant unison of sense
  • Which marries sweet sound with the grace of form,
  • And dolourous accent from a tragic harp
  • With large-limb’d visions. More I scrutinized
  • Still fix’d he sat beneath the sable trees,
  • Whose arms spread straggling in wild serpent forms,
  • With leaves all hush’d: his awful presence there
  • (Now all was silent) gave a deadly lie
  • To what I erewhile heard only his lips
  • Trembled amid the white curls of his beard.
  • They told the truth, though, round, the snowy locks
  • Hung nobly, as upon the face of heaven
  • A midday fleece of clouds. Thea arose
  • And stretch’d her white arm through the hollow dark,
  • Pointing some whither whereat he too rose
  • Like a vast giant seen by men at sea
  • To grow pale from the waves at dull midnight.
  • They melted from my sight into the woods:
  • Ere I could turn, Moneta cried — “These twain
  • Are speeding to the families of grief,
  • Where roof’d in by black rocks they waste in pain
  • And darkness for no hope.” — And she spake on,
  • As ye may read who can unwearied pass
  • Onward from the antichamber of this dream,
  • Where even at the open doors awhile
  • I must delay, and glean my memory
  • Of her high phrase: perhaps no further dare.

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream CANTO I. Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_hyperion_a_dream_canto_i.html.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream CANTO I. Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_hyperion_a_dream_canto_i.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream CANTO I. Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_hyperion_a_dream_canto_i.html.