Summary of Tithonus by Alfred Tennyson

Summary

Tithonus is a mythological poet of Alfred Tennyson who is a poet of Victorian age. In the poem he has mentioned the unpleasant immortality and the horrible sufferings of Tithonus. He also mentions that the result of the opposite sides of nature is always terrible and it always bears the horrible sufferings.   

The woods in the forests grow old and their leaves fall to the ground. Man is born, works the earth, and then dies and is buried underground. Yet the speaker, Tithonus, is cursed to live forever. Tithonus tells Aurora, goddess of the dawn, that he grows old slowly in her arms like a “white-haired shadow” wandering in the east.

Tithonus, he was once a beautiful man chosen as Aurora’s lover. He remembers that he long ago asked Aurora to grant him eternal life: “Give me immortality!” but he forgot to tell her to provide his immortal youth. Aurora granted his wish generously, like a rich goodhearted person who has so much money that he gives charity without thinking twice. However, the Hours, the goddesses who accompany Aurora, were angry that Tithonus was able to oppose death, but he was not able to get the immortality of his youth. In a situation in his immortal life he became so prostrate to his immortality that he appeals to Aurora to take back the gift of immortality but she did not take back. She replied that she never takes back if she gives something to somebody. Tithonus asks Aurora not to keep him imprisoned in the east where she rises a new each morning, because his eternal old age contrasts so painfully with her eternal renewal. He cringes cold and wrinkled, whereas she rises each morning to warm “happy men that have the power to die” and men who are already dead in their burial mounds (“grassy barrows”). He now realizes that every situation of the nature is perfect to all and it always bears the happiness of life but the opposite site of the nature only bears cruel sufferings as he suffers.

Form

This poem is a dramatic monologue: the entire text is spoken by a single character whose words reveal his identity. The lines take the form of blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). The poem as a whole falls into seven paragraph-like sections of varying length, each of which forms a thematic unit unto itself.

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