Analysis of Lord Tennyson’s Tithonus : immortality consumes

Tennyson’s Tithonus  relates to the old Greek myth of Tithonus, a very handsome youth and the son of Laomendon, the king of Troy. The legend tells that Tithonus was loved by the dawn goddess, Eos, who bore him a son, the hero Memnon, king of Ethiopia.  As his beloved was beloved was immortal, he requested her for the gift of immortality, Eos requested Zeus, the king of Gods, to grant this boon to her lover. Though immortality was granted, perpetual youth was not bestowed upon him. Thus Tithonus in his old age withered away to a decrepit and shriveled old man. Thus gradually he became old, infirm and ugly so that he pleaded finally to be released from life. At this given situation, the Tennyson’s Tithonus opens with a long soliloquy by title hero.

          The entire poem records ‘Tithonus’ yearning for death. The poem begins with the description of the process of death and decay in the nature. Happy are those things that have the book of death, the lover laments:

          “The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.”

          The lover then states his present ‘maimed’ condition before his beloved. He has become a shadow of his erstwhile glory and beauty. By the cruel hand of time he is now a ‘waste’ ‘maimed’ creature. He is now faded ill-suited to be a lover of Kaleidoscopic Eos.

          Now the lover begs, “Let me go, take back thy gift.” The beloved moves into pity and sheds tears. But the gift of immortality once granted by the Gods cannot be reversed. “The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.” Once earned immortality is now or cruelty to him. At the end of the poem there is an account of the sad separation of the lovers. The desperate lover now adds that happy are those men who have power to die. Thus he pleads that the happy conclusion of his life would be his death. And even then his graveyard will be visited by the Goddess of Dawn every morning. In a moving words he thus requests –

          “Thou seest all things; thou will see my grave,
          Thou will renew thy beauty morn by morn”.

          Even though Tithonus was a lining being, an earthy substance, he begged immortality to equal himself with the God. His desire was fulfilled but only to mourn in later years. The boon of immortality has gradually consumed his being totally in the late years. In our life both birth and death are two greatest phenomena. As birth is resource of joy, mirth and gala, death is also enjoyable. Mortal being dies only to get release from pains and pangs. But in Tithonus’s case these pains and pangs of the dying years have been made perpetual, so as to extend his agony and frustration on life. The boon of immortality has now become a bane to his life.

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