Endymion (poem)

Last updated
Draft of Endymion by John Keats, c. 1818 Endymion.JPG
Draft of Endymion by John Keats, c. 1818

Endymion is a poem by John Keats first published in 1818 by Taylor and Hessey of Fleet Street in London. John Keats dedicated this poem to the late poet Thomas Chatterton. The poem begins with the line "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever". Endymion is written in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter (also known as heroic couplets). Keats based the poem on the Greek myth of Endymion, the shepherd beloved of the moon goddess Selene. The poem elaborates on the original story and renames Selene "Cynthia" (an alternative name for Artemis).

Contents

Narrative

It starts by painting a rustic scene of trees, rivers, shepherds, and sheep. The shepherds gather around an altar and pray to Pan, god of shepherds and flocks. As the youths sing and dance, the elder men sit and talk about what life would be like in the shades of Elysium. However, Endymion, the "brain-sick shepherd-prince" of Mt. Latmos, is in a trancelike state, and not participating in their discourse. His sister, Peona, takes him away and brings him to her resting place where he sleeps. After he wakes, he tells Peona of his encounter with Cynthia, and how much he loved her.

The poem is divided into four books, each approximately 1,000 lines long. Book I gives Endymion's account of his dreams and experiences, as related to Peona, which provides the background for the rest of the poem. In Book II, Endymion ventures into the underworld in search of his love. He encounters Adonis and Venus a pairing of mortal and immortalapparently foreshadowing a similar destiny for the mortal Endymion and his immortal paramour. Book III reveals Endymion's enduring love, and he begs the Moon not to torment him any longer as he journeys through a watery void on the sea floor. There he meets Glaucus, freeing the god from a thousand years of imprisonment by the witch Circe. Book IV, "And so he groan'd, as one by beauty slain." Endymion falls in love with a beautiful Indian maiden. Both ride winged black steeds to Mount Olympus where Cynthia awaits, only for Endymion to forsake the goddess for his new, mortal, love. Endymion and the Indian girl return to earth, the latter saying she cannot be his love. He is miserable, 'til quite suddenly he comes upon the Indian maiden again and she reveals that she is in fact Cynthia. She then tells him of how she tried to forget him, to move on, but that in the end, "'There is not one,/ No, no, not one/ But thee.'"

Critical reception

Endymion received scathing criticism after its release, [1] and Keats himself noted its diffuse and unappealing style. Keats did not regret writing it, as he likened the process to leaping into the ocean to become more acquainted with his surroundings; in a poem to J. A. Hessey, he expressed that "I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest." However, he did express regret in its publishing, saying "it is not without a feeling of regret that I make [Endymion] public."

Not all critics disliked the work. The poet Thomas Hood wrote 'Written in Keats' Endymion', in which the "Muse... charming the air to music... gave back Endymion in a dreamlike tale". Henry Morley said, "The song of Endymion throbs throughout with a noble poet's sense of all that his art means for him. What mechanical defects there are in it may even serve to quicken our sense of the youth and freshness of this voice of aspiration."

This poem is quoted by Monsieur Verdoux in Charlie Chaplin's homonymous film, before committing a moonlit murder. "Our feet were soft in flowers...". [2]

The first line ("A thing of beauty is a joy for ever") is quoted by Mary Poppins in the 1964 Disney movie, while she pulls out a potted plant from her bag. It is also referenced by Willy Wonka in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory upon introducing the Wonkamobile, [3] and in the 1992 American sports comedy film White Men Can't Jump , written and directed by Ron Shelton. [4] In the beginning of the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine , the Chief Blue Meanie says, "A thing of beauty. Destroy it forever!" as a parody of the poem. [5]

Nawaaz Amhed's debut novel, Radiant Fugitives, features Keats' poems throughout and specifically mentions Endymion. [6]

Dan Simmons' science fiction novels, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion reference this poem.

Opening lines

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink. [7]

Book I, lines 1-24

See also

Notes

  1. The Quarterly Review April 1818 pp. 204–208; John Gibson Lockhart, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine August 1818
  2. "Monsieur Verdoux (1947) Movie Script | SS". Springfield! Springfield!. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  3. "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) Movie Script | SS". Springfield! Springfield!. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
  4. "Welcome to Movie Quotes - Repository - Full Quote from White Men Can't Jump - 1992". www.moviequotes.com. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  5. "Yellow Submarine quotes". Movie Quote DB. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  6. Ahmed, Nawaaz (2021). Radiant Fugitives. Berkeley, California: Counterpoint. pp. 135, 257–258. ISBN   9781640094048.
  7. Keats, John (1905). Sélincourt, Ernest De (ed.). The Poems of John Keats. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 53. OCLC   11128824.

Related Research Articles

Eos Greek goddess of the dawn

In ancient Greek mythology and religion, Eos is the goddess and personification of the dawn, who rose each morning from her home at the edge of the river Oceanus to deliver light and disperse the night. In Greek tradition and poetry she is characterized as a goddess with a great sexual appetite, who took numerous lovers for her own satisfaction and bore them several children. Like her Roman counterpart Aurora and Rigvedic Ushas, Eos continues the name of an earlier Indo-European dawn goddess, Hausos. Eos, or her earlier Proto-Indo-European (PIE) ancestor, also shares several elements with the love goddess Aphrodite, perhaps signifying Eos's influence on her or otherwise a common origin for the two goddesses. In surviving tradition, Aphrodite is the culprit behind Eos' numerous love affairs, having cursed the goddess with insatiable lust for mortal men.

John Keats English Romantic poet (1795–1821)

John Keats was an English poet of the second generation of Romantic poets, with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, although his poems had been in publication for less than four years when he died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. They were indifferently received in his lifetime, but his fame grew rapidly after his death. By the end of the century, he was placed in the canon of English literature, strongly influencing many writers of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1888 called one ode "one of the final masterpieces". Jorge Luis Borges named his first encounter with Keats an experience he felt all his life. Keats had a style "heavily loaded with sensualities", notably in the series of odes. Typically of the Romantics, he accentuated extreme emotion through natural imagery. Today his poems and letters remain among the most popular and analysed in English literature – in particular "Ode to a Nightingale", "Ode on a Grecian Urn", "Sleep and Poetry" and the sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer".

Selene Ancient Greek goddess of the Moon

In ancient Greek mythology and religion, Selene is the goddess and the personification of the Moon. Also known as Mene, she is traditionally the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, and sister of the sun god Helios and the dawn goddess Eos. She drives her moon chariot across the heavens. Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus, Pan, and the mortal Endymion. In post-classical times, Selene was often identified with Artemis, much as her brother, Helios, was identified with Apollo. Selene and Artemis were also associated with Hecate and all three were regarded as moon and lunar goddesses, but only Selene was regarded as the personification of the Moon itself. Her Roman equivalent is Luna.

Tithonus

In Greek mythology, Tithonus was the lover of Eos, Goddess of the Dawn. He was a prince of Troy, the son of King Laomedon by the Naiad Strymo (Στρυμώ). The mythology reflected by the fifth-century vase-painters of Athens envisaged Tithonus as a rhapsode, as attested by the lyre in his hand, on an oinochoe of the Achilles Painter, circa 470–460 BC.

Hyperion, a Fragment is an abandoned epic poem by 19th-century English Romantic poet John Keats. It was published in Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820). It is based on the Titanomachia, and tells of the despair of the Titans after their fall to the Olympians. Keats wrote the poem from late 1818 until the spring of 1819, when he gave it up as having "too many Miltonic inversions". He was also nursing his younger brother Tom, who died on 1 December 1818 of tuberculosis.

Ode to a Nightingale Poem by John Keats

"Ode to a Nightingale" is a poem by John Keats written either in the garden of the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, London or, according to Keats' friend Charles Armitage Brown, under a plum tree in the garden of Keats' house at Wentworth Place, also in Hampstead. According to Brown, a nightingale had built its nest near the house that he shared with Keats in the spring of 1819. Inspired by the bird's song, Keats composed the poem in one day. It soon became one of his 1819 odes and was first published in Annals of the Fine Arts the following July. The poem is one of the most frequently anthologized in the English language.

Gene Wilder American actor (1933–2016)

Jerome Silberman, known professionally as Gene Wilder, was an American actor, comedian, writer and filmmaker. He is known mainly for his comedic roles, but also for his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). He is also known for his collaborations with Mel Brooks on the films The Producers (1967), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), as well as with Richard Pryor in the films Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991). He also starred in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (1972).

Ode on a Grecian Urn 1819 poem by John Keats

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a poem written by the English Romantic poet John Keats in May 1819, first published anonymously in Annals of the Fine Arts for 1819.

Willy Wonka Fictional character in Roald Dahl novels

Willy Wonka is a fictional character appearing in British author Roald Dahl's 1964 children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its 1972 sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. He is the eccentric owner of the Wonka Chocolate Factory.

Endymion (mythology) Ancient Greek mythical character

In Greek mythology, Endymion was variously a handsome Aeolian shepherd, hunter, or king who was said to rule and live at Olympia in Elis. He was also venerated and said to reside on Mount Latmus in Caria, on the west coast of Asia Minor.

<i>Adonais</i> 1821 poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc. is a pastoral elegy written by Percy Bysshe Shelley for John Keats in 1821, and widely regarded as one of Shelley's best and best-known works. The poem, which is in 495 lines in 55 Spenserian stanzas, was composed in the spring of 1821 immediately after 11 April, when Shelley heard of Keats' death. It is a pastoral elegy, in the English tradition of John Milton's Lycidas. Shelley had studied and translated classical elegies. The title of the poem is modelled on ancient works, such as Achilleis, an epic poem by the 1st-century AD Roman poet Statius, and refers to the untimely death of the Greek Adonis, a god of fertility. Some critics suggest that Shelley used Virgil's tenth Eclogue, in praise of Cornelius Gallus, as a model.

Fallen Fairies; or, The Wicked World, is a two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Edward German. The story is an operatic adaptation of Gilbert's 1873 blank-verse fairy comedy, The Wicked World. In Fairyland, the fairies are curious about wicked mortals, especially their strange capacity for love. They summon three mortal men from the world below to observe them and to teach the men how to live virtuously. The fairies fall in love with the mortals, become jealous of each other and behave badly. The men return to Earth, and the fairies realize that love is overrated.

<i>The Wicked World</i>

The Wicked World is a blank verse play by W. S. Gilbert in three acts. It opened at the Haymarket Theatre on 4 January 1873 and ran for a successful 145 performances, closing on 21 June 1873. The play is an allegory loosely based on a short illustrated story of the same title by Gilbert, written in 1871 and published in Tom Hood's Comic Annual, about how pure fairies cope with a sudden introduction to them of "mortal love."

<i>Endymion</i> (play)

Endymion, the Man in the Moon is an Elizabethan era comedy by John Lyly, written circa 1588. The action of the play centers around a young courtier, Endymion, who is sent into an endless slumber by Tellus, his former lover, because he has spurned her to worship the ageless Queen Cynthia. The prose is characterised by Euphuism, Lyly's highly ornate, formalised style, meant to convey the intelligence and wit of the speaker. Endymion has been called "without doubt, the boldest in conception and the most beautiful in execution of all Lyly's plays." Lyly makes allusions to ancient Greek and Roman texts and traditional English folklore throughout the play. While the title and characters are references to the myth of Endymion, the plot sharply deviates from the classical story and highlights contemporary issues in Elizabeth I's court through its allegorical framework.

<i>A Thing of Beauty</i>

A Thing of Beauty is a novel by author A. J. Cronin, initially published in 1956, with the alternate title of Crusader's Tomb. It tells the story of Stephen Desmonde, an English painter who struggles for recognition in a conventional world, sacrificing everything for his passion for art. The title is a reference to John Keats' 1818 poem, Endymion, which begins with "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."

The Mortal Immortal

"The Mortal Immortal" is a short story from 1833 written by Mary Shelley. It tells the story of a man named Winzy, who drinks an elixir which makes him immortal. At first, immortality appears to promise him eternal tranquility. However, it soon becomes apparent that he is cursed to endure eternal psychological torture, as everything he loves dies around him.

Titans in popular culture

The familiar name and large size of the Titans have made them dramatic figures suited to market-oriented popular culture.

<i>Diana and Endymion</i> Painting by Francesco Solimena

Diana and Endymion is a painting by Francesco Solimena undertaken from 1705 until 1710. The painting depicts the Roman goddess Diana, one of the twelve Gods and Goddesses of Olympus, falling in love with Endymion, a symbol of timeless beauty. The story tells of Diana's love for the beautiful youth Endymion. The painting is hosted at the National Museums Liverpool, that purchased the painting in 1966, and holds it as one of the museums highlights.

References