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Write an essay on Tithonus: how far does Tennyson convey the experience of Tithonus?

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Introduction

Write an essay on Tithonus: how far does Tennyson convey the experience of Tithonus? Tithonus was written, Tennyson said, as a 'pendant to Ulysses,' and the sense of isolation and grief that pervades the poem clearly brings out the underlying darkness present in the earlier poem, and shows the consequences of human desire. Tithonus warns of the dangers of immortality, but its real message seems to be a suggestion that man cannot hope to aspire to the permanence of nature. The cyclical manner in which nature operates is shown through the iambic pentameter in the first stanza, which gives a regular, rhythmic sound to the words. The polysyndeton in the third line, and symmetrical structure of the first line support this effect, which although slows the poem down, gives a sense of harmony to the language and sound. This harmony is shattered when the lines "Me only cruel immortality/ Consumes," are introduced. These lines have a profound effect on the stanza because they destroy the metre and introduce irregularity to the poem. The enjambment and introduction of an adjective (the previous lines contain none) ...read more.

Middle

In the poem, I believe that Tithonus' desire for immortality is a metaphor for man's desire to keep up with nature's continuity and beauty. Yet man forgets that, "The woods decay," and by claiming exemption from death one brings about tragedy. However brutal the "Hours indignant" are, however, there is some beauty in Tithonus's words, because they are spoken by a dying man - when he says "after many a summer dies the swan," he can only look on longingly at the death, and later he asks to join the "happier dead." As in Mariana, there is a thought that alleviation of pain can only come about through destruction, Tithonus knows his final plea is hopeless, as, '"The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts",' yet he continues to speak because he wallows in the self-pity and suffering. I think that this is a result of Tennyson's post-Romantic attitude: moving on from conventional Romantic poetry that looks at the worth of the individual, Tithonus, as a post-romantic poem, looks at this fallacy, showing us the consequences of trying to surpass the fading "arch" described in Ulysses. ...read more.

Conclusion

The use of the past tense immediately distances this music, and it is then juxtaposed with the "mist" which seems to carry a sense of calm - the contrast leaves us with Tithonus' longing for the music that once filled his mind. The past, like the mist, is a fading memory, and Tithonus sees himself as a new person: the third person pronoun is used in the second stanza, showing a detachment of mind and body, with Tithonus barley able to recall the days when he was mortal. Throughout the poem the pronouns I and thee are separated structurally, echoing the tragic situation, and even when the Tithonus says "I wither slowly in thine arms," the phrase "wither slowly in" separates the two words representing the lovers. The suggestion seems to be that the bonds that connect them have themselves withered, as the line's meter and sentence structure are inconsistent with the rest of the stanza. The tragedy has come about, of course, as a result of Tithonus' na�ve belief that he "seem'd/ To his great heart none other than a God." The Gods oblige "with a smile," and leave Tithonus suffering, in the ultimately futile thought that "thou wilt see my grave." SHASHANK JOSHI ...read more.

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