3/08/2019

"Tennyson's use if myth and legend in "Tithonus".

Like the romantic poets who preceded him, Tennyson found much inspiration in the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. In such poems as "Tithonus", Tennyson retells the stories of Greek myths and legends. However, Tennyson slightly alters these mythic stories, shifting the time frame of some of the action and often adding more descriptive imagery to the plot. New knowledge of science, historical criticism of Marx and economical affluence created chaotic situation. The Victorians were at a loss that they desired a peaceful compromise among the conflicting ideologies. Tennyson's  poems on myths and legends always convey solutions to his contemporary problems.  But the solutions provided in “”Tithonus”  have the moral significances that have universal appeal.  The poem's tragic situation is based on the Greek myth of Tithonus of Troy and Eos. Tithonus was not entirely human, being the son of King Laomedon of Troy by a water nymph. In the myth Eos kidnapped him and asked Zeus for Tithonus to receive eternal life, but she neglected to stipulate eternal youth. Thus, Tithonus grows older and withers away without ever dying. In later versions he becomes a cicada who begs to die. Tennyson's poem is also indebted to "The Fall of Hyperion" by John Keats, in which Moneta has a similar fate.  In the poem, Tithonus was the lover of Aurora, goddess of the dawn, and here he asks her for eternal life which he was granted without eternal youth. As he ages he laments the slow and unceasing decay of his body and his exemption from the natural cycle of life and death. He wishes ardently for a natural death and envies those mortals who die. He remembers happier times with her when he content to enjoy each morning, like she still does. By letting him go, she would still be able to see his grave eternally.   Death is to be desired, not feared, since it is part of the natural cycle of mortal species. Tithonus rejects the ever-freshness of the dawn cycle of a goddess in favour of absorption into the life-and death cycle of mortal species. Understanding this point of view clarifies why, in the first stanza, Tithonus admires the swan that dies. He sees his immortality as "cruel."  One critic, William Flesch, writes that "time is the name for the pressure of eternity, not ephemerality, for a future that will be endless and endlessly more bleak." This is Tithonus's experience with time, unlike that of Eos, who brightens up to bring the same dawn to the world over and over again. Her time cycle is truly circular, while his remains linear. He does not properly participate in her natural rhythm, nor does he participate in the kind of human aging that leads properly to death.  Tithonus is trapped, but the reader is not. We are those happy mortals who can choose the life of Ulysses or, if we lack ambition, the quiet confines of daily routine. We can enjoy the feeling of the dawn each morning, at least for the days we have left.   Tithonus's suffering is a reminder of the futility of attempting to “pass beyond the goal of ordinance". It is a poignant expression of  the inevitability of death and of the necessity of accepting it as such. According to critic William E. Cain, "Tithonus has discovered the curse of fulfilment, of having his carelessly worded wish come true. He lives where no man ought to live, on the other side of the horizon, the other side of the border that Ulysses could only plan to cross. Tithonus" explores the human acceptance of the inevitability, and even the appropriateness, of death as the end of the life cycle.

Like the romantic poets who preceded him, Tennyson found much inspiration in the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. In
such poems as "Tithonus", Tennyson retells the stories of Greek myths and legends. However, Tennyson slightly alters these mythic
stories, shifting the time frame of some of the action and often adding more descriptive imagery to the plot. New knowledge of science, historical criticism of Marx and economical affluence created chaotic situation. The Victorians were at a loss that they desired a peaceful compromise among the conflicting ideologies. Tennyson's
poems on myths and legends always convey solutions to his contemporary problems.  But the solutions provided in “”Tithonus” have the moral significances that have universal appeal.

The poem's tragic situation is based on the Greek myth of Tithonus of Troy and Eos. Tithonus was not entirely human, being the son of King Laomedon of Troy by a water nymph. In the myth Eos kidnapped him and asked Zeus for Tithonus to receive eternal
life, but she neglected to stipulate eternal youth. Thus, Tithonus grows older and withers away without ever dying. In later versions he
becomes a cicada who begs to die. Tennyson's poem is also indebted to "The Fall of Hyperion" by John Keats, in which Moneta has a
similar fate.

In the poem, Tithonus was the lover of Aurora, goddess of the dawn, and here he asks her for eternal life which he was granted
without eternal youth. As he ages he laments the slow and unceasing decay of his body and his exemption from the natural cycle of life and
death. He wishes ardently for a natural death and envies those mortals who die. He remembers happier times with her when he
content to enjoy each morning, like she still does. By letting him go, she would still be able to see his grave eternally.

Death is to be desired, not feared, since it is part of the natural cycle of mortal species. Tithonus rejects the ever-freshness of the
dawn cycle of a goddess in favour of absorption into the life-and
death cycle of mortal species. Understanding this point of view clarifies why, in the first stanza, Tithonus admires the swan that dies.
He sees his immortality as "cruel."

One critic, William Flesch, writes that "time is the name for the pressure of eternity, not ephemerality, for a future that will be
endless and endlessly more bleak." This is Tithonus's experience with time, unlike that of Eos, who brightens up to bring the same dawn to the world over and over again. Her time cycle is truly circular, while his remains linear. He does not properly participate in her natural
rhythm, nor does he participate in the kind of human aging that leads properly to death.

Tithonus is trapped, but the reader is not. We are those happy mortals who can choose the life of Ulysses or, if we lack ambition, the
quiet confines of daily routine. We can enjoy the feeling of the dawn each morning, at least for the days we have left.
Tithonus's suffering is a reminder of the futility of attempting to “pass beyond the goal of ordinance". It is a poignant expression of
the inevitability of death and of the necessity of accepting it as such. According to critic William E. Cain, "Tithonus has discovered the
curse of fulfilment, of having his carelessly worded wish come true. He lives where no man ought to live, on the other side of the horizon, the other side of the border that Ulysses could only plan to cross.
Tithonus" explores the human acceptance of the inevitability, and even the appropriateness, of death as the end of the life cycle.

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