Keats’s use of Milton In reference to literature or any other form of art, the concept of influence is an inevitable necessity. To define, the concept of influence is the capacity of a component to have an impact on the character of an individual. It appears that influence is that power from which no man can escape. Artists or writers are mostly influenced by the creative power of their predecessors. They are mostly obsessed by their desire to recreate that influencing art that came before them.
Speaking particularly of the field of literature, some prominent figures, which have been influencing budding writers and poets, include Shakespeare, Homer, Milton and Dante, to name some. Among them, Milton was the greatest source of inspiration during the Romantic period in literature. From the very first representatives of the movement to the last generation of writers of the Romantic period, all of them were inspired by Milton’s works, especially by his epic work Paradise Lost. The romantics were particularly drawn to the epic for its mythic background, as romanticism offered a new approach towards mythology in contrast to the neo-classicists. They perceived in it “universal truths” which were apt to be re-interpreted to the modern ages. The romantics viewed here the figure of Satan as opposed to that offered in the Bible. The book presented the story from Satan’s point of view, and portrayed him as the tragic hero. Because of such attributes, the Paradise Lost was able to influence many, and among these inspired ones was the Romantic, John Keats. Keats’s use of Miltonic features in his writings is mostly evident in his works like Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion.
To begin with, Keats primarily shaped his Hyperion on the mythic-story structure, with comparable subject matter such as “the fall”, similar figures, settings etc. But like all romantics, Keats also did not adapt Milton’s myth as it were. He viewed the myth and its figures as vacant vessels to be put to whatever use the writer wishes. For example, in Hyperion Keats took the theme of the Titans and their fall and fabricated it in his own style, with his own principles and his own mythology. It is to be noted that the Hyperion begins not with general statements but with statements which are merged with varied stylistic devices employed by the speaker, a technique modelled after Milton. Keats here used a style which he termed Miltonic Inversions. An example of this style was to use nouns which were followed by adjectives, as was used by Milton in Paradise Lost. “Oft made Hyperion ache. His palace bright “,”Of thunderous waterfalls and torrents hoarse”, “Distinct, and visible; symbol divine” are some of the instances of Keats’s employment of Miltonic Inversions. Another important Miltonic feature adopted by Keats was that the story of both Paradise Lost and Hyperion begin in the middle, with the fall of Satan and the Titans respectively. In Hyperion, the narrative voice changes throughout thus offering varied view points on the same event, just as in Paradise Lost where the speaker gives voice to Beelzebub, Satan, Adam and others to express their perceptions. Another feature of similarity with Milton’s work that Keats intended in his Hyperion was the length of his work. As Paradise Lost constituted of ten long books, Keats also had it in mind to lengthen his work, but ended up with three books as he deserted his idea of continuing Hyperion. Most importantly, the fall of the Titans in Hyperion is a replication of the Fall of the mutinous and the disobedient angels in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
The Fall of Hyperion is alike Hyperion in Keats objective of emulating John Milton’s works. It is to be noted that unlike Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion fulfils the criterion of invoking a muse, as in Paradise Lost. This is evident in the first canto, where the speaker achieves the functions of a muse, by introducing his dream. Particularly in the depiction of a dream we come across some resemblances to the narrative of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Here, the speaker makes direct references to the setting of the Garden of Paradise, and the events occurring there are the events prior to the Fall of Man narrated in the Paradise Lost- as stated while wandering the speaker came across leftovers of some feast “of summer fruits / which nearer seen, seem’d refuse of a meal/ by angel tasted or our Mother Eve.” In this poem, the dreamer corresponds that of Milton’s Adam. As soon the dreamer wakes from he finds himself in within the wrecks of “an eternal domed monument”. This shift of the dreamer’s state from the setting of the Garden of Paradise to this desolate setting marks its obvious likeness to the Fall of Adam from Paradise, thus the fall of mankind in Milton’s epic. Thus it can be seen that though after abandoning writing Hyperion and leaving it in the middle, Keats didn’t let go of the influence of Milton over him as he clearly infuses Miltonic traits in The Fall of Hyperion. Hence, although Keats tried his best to imitate the epic method of Milton, still we observe traces of Keats’s own ideas and philosophies. His writings also reflect the strong influence that no other writer,except for Milton had upon him. His writings are also a sign of Keats’s unability to shed off the shadow of persuasion that Milton cast over him.


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