Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From Book II of "Hyperion" by John Keats [lines 162-243]

From Hyperion, Book II

“O speak your counsel now, for Saturn’s ear
“Is all a-hunger’d. Thou, Oceanus,
“Ponderest high and deep; and in thy face
“I see, astonied, that severe content
“Which comes of thought and musing: give us help?”

    So ended Saturn; and the God of the Sea,
Sophist and sage, from no Athenian grove,
But cogitation in his watery shades,
Arose, with locks not oozy, and began,
In murmurs, which his first-endeavouring tongue
Caught infant-like from the far-foamed sands.
“O ye, whom wrath consumes! who, passion-stung,
“Writhe at defeat, and nurse your agonies!
“Shut up your senses, stifle up your ears,
“My voice is not a bellows unto ire.
“Yet listen, ye who will, whilst I bring proof
“How ye, perforce, must be content to stoop:
“And in the proof much comfort will I give,
“If ye will take that comfort in its truth.
“We fall by course of Nature’s law, not force
“Of thunder, or of Jove. Great Saturn, thou
“Hast sifted well the atom-universe;
“But for this reason, that thou art the King,
“And only blind from sheer supremacy,
“One avenue was shaded from thine eyes,
“Through which I wandered to eternal truth.
“And first, as thou wast not the first of powers,
“So art thou not the last; it cannot be:
“Thou art not the beginning nor the end.
“From chaos and parental darkness came
“Light, the first fruits of that intestine broil,
“That sullen ferment, which for wondrous ends
“Was ripening in itself. The ripe hour came,
“And with it light, and light, engendering
“Upon its own producer, forthwith touch’d
“The whole enormous matter into life.
“Upon that very hour, our parentage,
“The Heavens and the Earth, were manifest:
“Then thou first-born, and we the giant-race,
“Found ourselves ruling new and beauteous realms.
“Now comes the pain of truth, to whom ’tis pain;
“O folly! for to bear all naked truths,
“And to envisage circumstance, all calm,
“That is the top of sovereignty. Mark well!
“As Heaven and Earth are fairer, fairer far
“Than Chaos and blank Darkness, though once chiefs;
“And as we show beyond that Heaven and Earth
“In form and shape compact and beautiful,
“In will, in action free, companionship,
“And thousand other signs of purer life;
“So on our heels a fresh perfection treads,
“A power more strong in beauty, born of us
“And fated to excel us, as we pass
“In glory that old Darkness: nor are we
“Thereby more conquer’d, than by us the rule
“Of shapeless Chaos. Say, doth the dull soil
“Quarrel with the proud forests it hath fed,
“And feedeth still, more comely than itself?
“Can it deny the chiefdom of green groves?
“Or shall the tree be envious of the dove
“Because it cooeth, and hath snowy wings
“To wander wherewithal and find its joys?
“We are such forest-trees, and our fair boughs
“Have bred forth, not pale solitary doves,
“But eagles golden-feather’d, who do tower
“Above us in their beauty, and must reign
“In right thereof; for ’tis the eternal law
“That first in beauty should be first in might:
“Yea, by that law, another race may drive
“Our conquerors to mourn as we do now.
“Have ye beheld the young God of the Seas,
“My dispossessor? Have ye seen his face?
“Have ye beheld his chariot, foam’d along
“By noble winged creatures he hath made?
“I saw him on the calmed waters scud,
“With such a glow of beauty in his eyes,
“That it enforc’d me to bid sad farewell
“To all my empire: farewell sad I took,
“And hither came, to see how dolorous fate
“Had wrought upon ye; and how I might best
“Give consolation in this woe extreme.
“Receive the truth, and let it be your balm.”

Source of the text - Keats, John. Keats's Poetry and Prose, selected and edited by Jeffrey N. Cox.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009, pp.488-489.

TJB: Cockney Miltonics. Compounding, inverting, half-sprung, this ode from the fallen sea-god lushly argues that beauty, not might, makes right.

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