Get notes, line-by-line explanation, summary, questions and answers, critical analysis, word meanings, extras, and pdf of the poem “Tithonus” by Lord Alfred Tennyson, which is part of ISC Class 12 English (Rhapsody: A Collection of ISC Poems). However, the notes should only be treated as references, and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
The speaker in this poem is Tithonus, son of the Trojan king Laomedon. He reminisces about the unfortunate predicament he finds himself in as a result of being granted immortality by his divine wife, the goddess Eos. Tithonus reflects that it is the natural law and destiny of all creatures, including humans, to age and meet their end. However, the eternal life given to him by Eos has left him a feeble, decrepit old man unable to die. Rather than blame Eos (Aurora) for his miserable state, Tithonus takes responsibility, admitting it was his own pride and ambition in demanding immortality while young that has led to this. He deeply regrets having lost his vigour and youth, while Eos (Aurora) remains eternally beautiful and alluring as the goddess of the dawn.
Tithonus now desperately wishes Eos (Aurora) would take back her gift of immortality, agreeing that he has no reason to go on living when all mortals must die. He contrasts Eos’ enduring youthful splendour with his own withered and hopeless old age. Tithonus expresses anguish over no longer being able to match the passionate youth of his beloved wife. When Eos (Aurora) does not respond to his pleas, Tithonus realises she too is in pain, though as a goddess she does not shed tears as he does. Her tearful eyes remind him of an old saying he learned in his youth – that the gods cannot revoke gifts once bestowed.
Tithonus mourns the loss of his own passionate enjoyment of dawn’s beauty and Eos’ youthful ardour, as he has grown old and lost the energy and zeal for life he once had. He wonders if he is even the same man anymore. His words suggest it was perhaps his fate to wed the radiant goddess and suffer this torment. Therefore neither Eos (Aurora) nor Tithonus himself are to blame for his current misery. In the end, he implores Eos (Aurora) not to force him to remain immortal as he has become withered and aged, feeling no passion for her anymore. The sight of the vapours from the fields of still-mortal men reveals their happiness in not having to grow old without death. Even those in their graves under the grass seem fortunate to Tithonus for having avoided the sorrow of immortality devoid of youth. He expresses his wish to die and be released from this woeful existence, while acknowledging Eos (Aurora) will go on delighting in her immortality. The poem’s implication is that humans are meant to perish and depart the earth, while the gods remain eternal.
Though based on the Greek myth of Tithonus and Eos, the poem does not recount the literal myth, omitting for instance Tithonus being turned into a grasshopper. Rather it focuses on the human condition and the problems that arise when the natural cycle of life is interfered with, whether by mortal ambition or divine power.
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.
Tennyson paints a scene of natural entropy and the inexorable passage of time. The repeated phrase “the woods decay and fall” serves as a melancholic refrain that nature, in its endless cycle, is subject to decline and death. The imagery of the weeping vapours adds a layer of sorrow, as if the skies themselves mourn the fate of all things that must eventually succumb to the gravity of time—represented both literally as rain falling to the ground and symbolically as the sorrows of life. Man’s brief tenure on earth is likened to a farmer’s labour, which is temporary and inevitably ends with him becoming part of the land he once cultivated. The swan’s death is particularly evocative; though it lives through many summers—a symbol of beauty and grace—even it is not immune to death. This stanza establishes the theme of mortality that contrasts sharply with the immortal existence Tithonus laments.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair’d shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
Here, the speaker, Tithonus, describes himself as an anomaly within the natural order. Unlike the woods, the vapour, man, and the swan, he cannot decay and fall; he is trapped by the “cruel immortality” granted to him. The word “consumes” is paradoxical—normally one would be consumed by death, not immortality. But for Tithonus, immortality is a slow consumption, a perpetual withering rather than a quick release. The image of a “white-haired shadow” emphasises his ghostly, insubstantial existence. His comparison to a “dream” floating through “ever-silent spaces of the East” is replete with the notion of liminality; he is caught between the tangible world and some other ethereal realm, a place marked by the “gleaming halls of morn,” suggestive of the unattainable beauty and renewal that dawn represents, forever out of his grasp.
Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem’d
To his great heart none other than a God!
These lines express a profound sense of loss. Tithonus mourns for himself, recalling his past vitality and glory. He was once a “grey shadow,” full of life and chosen by a goddess. His selection by a divine being made him feel akin to a god, inflating his sense of self to divine proportions. It’s a wistful reflection on past grandeur, now lost.
I ask’d thee, ‘Give me immortality.’
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.
Tithonus recalls the fateful request he made to the goddess Eos—to be made immortal. The granting of this wish is recounted with a sense of naivety on both their parts. Eos’s smile is likened to that of the careless generosity of the rich, who give without considering the consequences or the nature of the gift. This introduces the theme of unintended consequences and the folly of wishing for more than what is naturally allotted.
But thy strong Hours indignant work’d their wills,
And beat me down and marr’d and wasted me,
And tho’ they could not end me, left me maim’d
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,
Immortal age beside immortal youth,
And all I was, in ashes.
Time, personified as “strong Hours,” seems to rebel against the perversion of its natural law. Tithonus is not simply living; he is being actively destroyed by time, yet not allowed to die. There’s a sense of indignity in the way time treats him, leaving him “maim’d” and less than he once was. The juxtaposition of “immortal age beside immortal youth” is tragic—Tithonus ages but does not die, whereas Eos (Aurora) remains eternally young. His former self is reduced to “ashes,” a powerful image of complete degradation and the finality that he can never achieve.
Can thy love,
Thy beauty, make amends, tho’ even now,
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,
Shines in those tremulous eyes that fill with tears
To hear me? Let me go: take back thy gift:
Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?
Tithonus questions whether the love and beauty of the goddess can compensate for the torment he endures. The “silver star,” possibly the planet Venus, often associated with love, guides Eos (Aurora) and is reflected in her tearful eyes, signifying her regret and sadness over Tithonus’s fate. His plea to be released from immortality is laden with the wisdom of hindsight; he now sees the value in the natural order of life and death from which he has been excluded. He ponders why anyone would want to deviate from the human experience, to go beyond the natural boundaries set for life—reflecting the Victorian era’s anxieties about the consequences of hubris and the overreaching of humanity.
A soft air fans the cloud apart; there comes
A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.
A change in the atmosphere occurs as a gentle breeze provides a momentary glimpse into Tithonus’s past. The “dark world” refers to the mortal world he was born into—a stark contrast to the perpetual dawn he now inhabits. This glimpse serves as a poignant reminder of what he has lost: his mortality and the natural world he was a part of.
Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals
From thy pure brows, and from thy shoulders pure,
And bosom beating with a heart renew’d.
Thy cheek begins to redden thro’ the gloom,
Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine,
Ere yet they blind the stars, and the wild team
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,
And shake the darkness from their loosen’d manes,
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.
Eos’s transformation at dawn is described with an ethereal beauty. The “old mysterious glimmer” alludes to the recurring beauty of Eos (Aurora) that Tithonus has witnessed countless times, yet now it only serves to emphasise his eternal alienation from the cycle of life and death. The “wild team” refers to the horses of Eos’s chariot, full of vitality and vigour, embodying the power and majesty of the natural world that Tithonus can observe but no longer partake in. The poetic image of the twilight being beaten “into flakes of fire” captures the violence and beauty of the dawn, as well as the pain it brings to Tithonus, as it signifies another day of his endless life.
Lo! ever thus thou growest beautiful
In silence, then before thine answer given
Departest, and thy tears are on my cheek.
Tithonus acknowledges the silent beauty of Eos (Aurora) that grows with each passing moment. Her departure without answering his pleas indicates a sense of inevitability and helplessness in the face of his fate. The tears on his cheek are a testament to their shared sorrow—a sorrow that is profound and personal, marking the gulf between their experiences.
Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true?
‘The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.’
The tears of Eos (Aurora) alarm Tithonus; they seem to confirm a terrible ancient saying that even the gods cannot undo what they have given. This realisation terrifies him, suggesting his immortality, and thus his suffering, is irrevocable. This echoes a common theme in myths where divine actions are irreversible and often carry a heavy price.
Ay me! ay me! with what another heart
In days far-off, and with what other eyes
I used to watch—if I be he that watch’d—
The lucid outline forming round thee; saw
The dim curls kindle into sunny rings;
Tithonus expresses a poignant longing for the past, contrasting his former vitality with his current despair. The repeated exclamations “Ay me! ay me!” signal deep lamentation. He nostalgically remembers watching Eos (Aurora) with a heart full of life and eyes that could truly see and appreciate the beauty of her divine transformation. There’s a sense of disbelief as he questions whether he is the same person who once observed Eos’s hair transform from dim curls into rings illuminated by the sun.
Changed with thy mystic change, and felt my blood
Glow with the glow that slowly crimson’d all
Thy presence and thy portals, while I lay,
Mouth, forehead, eyelids, growing dewy-warm
With kisses balmier than half-opening buds
Of April, and could hear the lips that kiss’d
Whispering I knew not what of wild and sweet,
He recalls being in sync with Eos’s transformation at dawn, his body reacting to the increasing light that made her divine presence radiate. As he lay there, every kiss from Eos (Aurora) was rejuvenating and warm, compared to the gentle emergence of spring represented by “half-opening buds of April.” There’s a sense of mystery and sweetness in the whispers he couldn’t quite understand, reminiscent of the enchanting and incomprehensible nature of divine communication.
Like that strange song I heard Apollo sing,
While Ilion like a mist rose into towers.
The memory of Eos’s whispers takes him back further in time to the divine songs of Apollo, the god of music. He evokes an image of Troy (Ilion), his homeland, appearing majestic and dream-like, rising from the mist, possibly alluding to the legendary past and the glory of life before his transformation into an immortal being.
Yet hold me not for ever in thine East:
How can my nature longer mix with thine?
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
Tithonus pleads with Eos (Aurora) not to keep him bound to the realm of the eternal dawn, which she governs. There is a profound disconnect between his now-cold, mortal nature and her warm, immortal one. The ‘rosy shadows’ and lights of dawn, once sources of warmth and joy, now feel cold to him, a reminder of his unnatural state. He envisions the earthly fields and homes of mortals, who, in their ability to die, possess a happiness he can no longer attain.
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground;
Thou seëst all things, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn;
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.
Tithonus deems even the dead, lying in their grass-covered graves, to be happier than he is. He implores Eos (Aurora) to let him join them in the earth, to end his eternal suffering. He acknowledges her omnipotent vision, assuming she will witness his return to the earth upon his death. He imagines a world where she continues her daily renewal, her beauty unfading with each dawn, while he, once returned to dust, will no longer remember the empty existence he endured. The ‘silver wheels’ refer to her chariot, which brings the dawn each day—yet for him, it’s a cycle from which he desperately seeks release.
decay: The process of rotting or deteriorating.
vapours: Moisture in the air; mist or steam.
burthen: An archaic form of “burden,” meaning a heavy load or weight.
tills: Prepares and cultivates land for farming.
consumes: Eats away at; destroys or uses up.
wither: To dry up or shrivel due to loss of moisture or sustenance.
arms: Here, it implies the embrace or protective support, possibly referring to the embrace of Eos, the goddess of dawn.
shadow: A dark shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface; used metaphorically to represent a faint or diminished presence.
roaming: Wandering or travelling aimlessly.
Alas: An expression of grief, pity, or concern.
marr’d: Damaged or spoiled.
wasted: Weakened; diminished in health or vitality.
maim’d: Injured, typically in a way that results in a permanent disability.
amends: Compensation for a wrong or injury.
silver star: Often a symbol for the planet Venus, which is associated with the goddess of love and is visible at dawn or dusk.
tremulous: Shaking or quivering slightly, usually from nervousness or emotion.
ordinance: A decree or command.
soft air: A gentle breeze.
glimmer: A faint or wavering light; a soft glow.
redden: To become red or flushed.
thresholds: The bottoms of doorways; the place or point of entering or beginning.
yoke: A wooden beam used to couple two animals together for pulling heavy loads; symbolically, it can represent slavery or servitude.
manes: The long hair growing from the neck of a horse or similar animal.
twilight: The soft glowing light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, caused by the reflection of the sun’s rays from the atmosphere.
flakes of fire: Likely a poetic description of the shimmering or flickering effect of light at twilight or dawn.
barrows: Burial mounds or large heaps of earth or stones placed over a grave.
restore: To bring back to a former condition or position.
grave: A place of burial for a dead body, typically a hole dug in the ground.
Critical analysis of the poem
Alfred Lord Tennyson’s monologue “Tithonus” utilises the mythological character Tithonus to meditate on existential questions of life, death, and immortality. Tithonus was granted eternal life by Eos, goddess of the dawn, but not everlasting youth. Through Tithonus’s lamentation, the poem explores the agony of an immortal being trapped in a decaying body, suggesting immortality alone is a curse without the permanence of youth.
A prevalent theme is the contrast between the mortal condition of constant change and renewal versus Tithonus’s unchanging, interminable decline. While the natural world cycles through life, death, and rebirth with each dawn, Tithonus remains suspended in perpetual decrepitude. The vivid imagery of the rejuvenating dawn underscores Tithonus’s stasis and isolation in the “ever-silent spaces.”
Tennyson employs mournful rhythm and enjambment to evoke Tithonus’s ceaseless, unpausing torment. The irregular metre reinforces the anguished disjunction between Tithonus’s state and the natural order. Requests for death’s release convey the desire to escape suffering, highlighting the poem’s solemn existential undertones.
The recurring dawn imagery exemplifies how love, even divine love, cannot conquer the ruthless passage of time or mortality’s shadow. Tithonus’s yearning for his youthful passion suggests life’s poignancy is in its ephemeral nature. Tennyson implies immortality alone is meaningless without change, implying the necessity of death in providing life meaning.
By poetically rendering Tithonus’s mythic agony, Tennyson stimulates contemplation on mortality, desire, and the human quest for immortality. The poem warns against tampering with natural laws and hubristically seeking eternal life devoid of growth or purpose. Ultimately, “Tithonus” provides a mythological lens to examine timeless philosophical questions about the essence and cyclical beauty of mortal existence.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
(i) The speaker in the poem is:
(a) The Goddess Aurora (b) The Goddess of Sky (c) Tithonus (d) The sun God Apollo
Answer: (c) Tithonus
(ii) The immortality and old age seem cruel to the speaker and he wants to:
(a) live longer (b) live in the company of human beings (c) die and get release from the boon (d) become young again
Answer: (c) die and get release from the boon
(iii) Tithonus felt like a God:
(a) in his earthly house with his family and friends (b) when the goddess of dawn chose him as her lover (c) in his dream (d) in the morning only
Answer: (b) when the goddess of dawn chose him as her lover
(iv) Tithonus lives in the company of the goddess of dawn in:
(a) The East (b) The West (c) The South (d) The North
Answer: (a) The East
(v) The line, “A soft air fans the cloud apart means”:
(a) A breeze separates a cloud from other clouds. (b) It turns the clouds dark. (c) It makes vapours out of clouds. (d) It looks like vapours.
Answer: (a) A breeze separates a cloud from other clouds.
(vi) The goddess of dawn departs and Tithonus notices:
(a) her beauty in his eyes (b) the ugly aspect of the boon (c) tears in her eyes (d) The North (d) the tears of the goddess on his cheek
Answer: (b) the ugly aspect of the boon
(vii) Due to the boon of immortality Tithonus as an old man has to love with his:
(a) old and withered wife (b) young and beautiful wife (c) a young woman cursed to die soon (d) youthful passion for beauty
Answer: (b) young and beautiful wife
(viii) The goddess of dawn:
(a) shows her unwillingness to take the gift of immortality back (b) cannot take back the gift of immortality (c) is cursed to lead an unhappy life without eternal youth (d) does not like Tithonus in his old age
Answer: (b) cannot take back the gift of immortality
(ix) Tithonus is unhappy:
(a) with the goddess of dawn (b) with other gods (c) because he has become immortal but grown old (d) as he has to die like other human beings
Answer: (c) because he has become immortal but grown old
(x) The beauty of the goddess of dawn:
(a) will come to an end after fifty years (b) will be renewed every morning keeping her always the same (c) makes Tithonusjealous of her (d) brings negative thoughts to Tithonus
Answer: (b) will be renewed every morning keeping her always the same
(i) The woods have to fall because
Answer: it is a natural law that everything, including human beings, grows old and must eventually perish.
(ii) Tithonus calls immortality cruel because
Answer: it has become a burden to him.
(iii) Tithonus withers slowly but does not die because
Answer: he was granted immortality by the Goddess of dawn, Aurora.
(iv) Tithonus felt like God because
Answer: in his youth, he was handsome, energetic, and chosen by the Goddess as her lover, which made him the happiest man.
(v) Tithonus compares the goddess with wealthy men because
Answer: like rich people who give money without much thought to the consequences, the Goddess granted him immortality without considering the implications of eternal life without eternal youth.
(vi) The goddess remains young and beautiful whereas Tithonus grows old and withered because
Answer: she is a divine being, forever youthful, while Tithonus, although immortal, is still subject to the ravages of time and age.
(vii) The poem shows that even the powers of gods are limited because
Answer: despite her divine nature, the Goddess cannot reverse the gift of immortality she gave to Tithonus.
(viii) The speaker in the poem does not want an old saying to come true because
Answer: it suggests that gods cannot take back the gifts they have given.
(ix) According to the speaker in the poem, a mist rose into Towers because
Answer: this is part of the imagery used to describe Tithonus’s environment.
(x) Tithonus calls the earthly people happy because
Answer: they are subject to mortality and the reality of death.
Short Answer Questions
(i) Why does Tithonus call the boon of his immortality cruel?
Answer: Tithonus considers his immortality cruel because it is accompanied by ageing without the possibility of death. He is trapped in an aged body, unable to enjoy life as his youthful wife, the Goddess of dawn, does, making his eternal life feel more like a curse than a blessing.
(ii) Describe the place where Tithonus lives with Aurora, the goddess of dawn.
Answer: Tithonus lives with Aurora, the goddess of dawn, in the far east where it is always misty and gloomy. He describes it as “the ever-silent spaces of the East, Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.” So it seems to be a cold, quiet, and dark place enveloped in mist.
(iii) Explain the circumstances under which Tithonus was granted immortality.
Answer: Tithonus was granted immortality by Aurora after he had fallen in love with the beautiful goddess. In his youthful passion and ardour, Tithonus had asked Aurora to grant him immortality so he could be with her forever. Aurora readily granted him this wish without thinking of the consequences.
(iv) What similarity is mentioned between the grant of immortality to Tithonus and the way wealthy people give money to someone?
Answer: The grant of immortality to Tithonus is compared to the way wealthy people casually give away money to someone without much thought. Just as rich people don’t care how they give away their money, Aurora granted Tithonus immortality without considering the implications of eternal life without eternal youth.
(v) Why does the speaker want the goddess to rectify the error she has made?
Answer: The speaker, Tithonus, wants the goddess Aurora to rectify her mistake and take back the gift of immortality because it has become a curse for him. He has grown old and decrepit over time while she remains eternally youthful. Tithonus pleads with her to release him from this agonizing existence.
(vi) Give a description of the appearance of dawn on her chariot.
Answer: The appearance of dawn on her chariot is described vividly: “Thy cheek begins to redden thro’ the gloom, Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine, Ere yet they blind the stars, and the wild team Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise, And shake the darkness from their loosened names, And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.” Aurora’s cheeks redden, her eyes shine brightly, the stars fade in the light, her wild horses shake their manes and pull her chariot, beating the darkness into flakes of fire in the sky.
(vii) What is the limitation of the gods that Tithonus points out? When does he realise this?
Answer: Tithonus realises that even the gods have limitations and cannot recall the boons they have granted. When Aurora does not respond to his plea and merely sheds tears, Tithonus understands that she is helpless to take back the gift of immortality. This makes him recall an old saying that “The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.”
Long Answer Questions
(i) Who has made Tithonus immortal? Why is he unhappy? What does he long for?
Answer: Tithonus has been made immortal by Aurora, the goddess of dawn. He fell in love with the beautiful goddess and in a moment of passion, asked her to grant him immortality so he could be with her forever. Aurora readily granted this wish but forgot to also give him eternal youth. Over time, Tithonus aged normally as a human while Aurora remained eternally youthful. Now old and decrepit, Tithonus is unhappy with his immortality and longs for death, which is the natural end of mortal men.
(ii) Discuss the poem as a dramatic monologue.
Answer: The poem is a dramatic monologue with Tithonus as the sole speaker. He directly addresses Aurora and expresses his agonised thoughts and feelings about the curse of his immortality. The entire poem is Tithonus’ plea to Aurora to take back her gift and allow him to die. We get insights into his mental state and emotions as he oscillates between memories of his passionate youth and his current misery and decay. The dramatic technique vividly brings out Tithonus’ suffering.
(iii) How does Tithonus describe his past life as a human on the earth?
Answer: Tithonus fondly recalls his vigorous youth when he was Aurora’s passionate lover. He describes how he used to eagerly watch the dawn break, observe Aurora’s beauty manifest as her curls turned to rings of light, and feel his own blood glow with desire for her. He reminisces about the tender moments they shared and how he heard her speak mystical words of love that sounded like divine music. Overall, he paints a vivid picture of their idyllic love before immortality ruined it all.
(iv) How does the poet describe the journey of the goddess across the sky?
Answer: The poet richly describes Aurora’s grand journey across the sky as dawn breaks. Her cheeks redden, eyes glow, and the stars fade away unable to match her brightness. Her spirited horses shake out their manes, ready to pull her chariot. As they set off, their hooves beat the darkness into flakes of fire and light spreads through the sky. The vivid imagery makes the reader visualize the glorious dawn.
(v) Compare Tithonus’ feelings and attitude towards immortality in his youth and in his old age.
Answer: In his youth, Tithonus was so passionately in love with Aurora that he desired immortality to be with her forever. He considered it a boon and blessing. Now in his old age, he sees immortality as a cruel curse that has caused him endless suffering and decay. He longs for death and sees it as a release, not a tragedy. His attitudes towards immortality in youth and old age are completely opposite.
(vi) How does Tithonus try to convince the goddess at the end of the poem that she should not keep him in the East where she lives?
Answer: Tithonus pleads with Aurora not to force him to remain immortal in her cold, gloomy abode in the East. He argues they are fundamentally incompatible – she is an eternally youthful goddess full of light and life while he is now a withered, trembling old mortal man. The dawn’s beauty only reminds him of his decay. He wants to be freed and returned to the human world where he can grow old and die naturally like all mortal men, whose graves seem happier to him than his miserable immortality.
Additional/extra questions and answers
1. What is the central theme of the poem “Tithonus”?
Answer: The central theme of the poem “Tithonus” is the agony and pain resulting from immortality granted to Tithonus. It emphasises that immortality is not meant for human beings and that every earthly being has to meet death. The poem forcefully expresses the idea that human beings should be content with mortality and the reality of death, as immortality for humans can turn out to be a curse. It also conveys that humans should not aspire for a life meant for gods, and overreaching one’s limits can lead to terrible consequences.
2. Describe the character of Tithonus in your own words.
Answer: Tithonus is portrayed as a once glorious and beautiful mortal who has become a shadow of his former self due to the curse of immortality without eternal youth. He is filled with regret and longing for the release from his undying state, expressing a deep sense of loss and a yearning for the natural cycle of life and death.
3. How does Tithonus view immortality in the poem?
Answer: Tithonus views immortality as a cruel and consuming force. It is depicted as a burden rather than a blessing, as it has left him withered and longing for death to escape the eternal suffering of living without his youthful vigour.
4. What is the significance of the recurring motif of decay in the poem?
Answer: The motif of decay represents the natural cycle of life, highlighting the contrast between the mortal world, where everything has an end, and Tithonus’s unnatural state of endless aging without the release of death.
5. Explain the metaphor “The woods decay, the woods decay and fall” as used in the poem.
Answer: This metaphor is used to illustrate the natural process of aging and death that all living things must undergo. It underscores the unnaturalness of Tithonus’s condition, as he is unable to follow this natural cycle.
6. How does Tithonus feel about the gift of immortality granted to him?
Answer: Tithonus feels that the gift of immortality is a curse rather than a gift because it was granted without the accompanying eternal youth, leaving him to suffer endless aging and decay.
7. What does Tithonus mean when he says, “Me only cruel immortality Consumes”?
Answer: When Tithonus says “Me only cruel immortality Consumes,” he means that he alone is being destroyed by the immortality that was granted to him, as it consumes his being with endless suffering and decay.
8. Discuss the contrast between “immortal age” and “immortal youth” as presented in the poem.
Answer: The poem contrasts “immortal age,” which Tithonus suffers from, with “immortal youth,” which the gods enjoy. While the gods remain forever young, Tithonus ages continuously, highlighting the tragedy of his condition.
9. How does Tithonus describe his past self, and how does this compare to his current state?
Answer: Tithonus describes his past self as glorious and god-like, chosen for his beauty and vigor. In contrast, his current state is one of a withered, white-haired shadow, a stark contrast to his former glory.
10. What is the role of the natural world in the poem?
Answer: The natural world in the poem serves as a backdrop that emphasises the unnatural state of Tithonus. It also represents the cycle of life and death that Tithonus is excluded from, heightening his sense of isolation and suffering.
11. Analyse the significance of the “silver star” mentioned in the poem.
Answer: The “silver star” symbolises guidance and possibly hope. It is a celestial body that shines despite Tithonus’s suffering, perhaps representing the unchanging and distant nature of the gods compared to the mortal Tithonus.
12. How does Tithonus’ perspective on life and death differ from that of the gods?
Answer: Tithonus sees life and death as part of a natural cycle to be embraced, whereas the gods, being immortal, are detached from this cycle. Tithonus’s perspective is rooted in the human experience of life’s transience.
13. What does Tithonus request at the end of the poem, and why?
Answer: Tithonus requests to be released from his immortality and to be restored to the ground, meaning he wishes to die. He longs for this because his immortality has become a source of endless suffering without the solace of death.
14. How does the imagery of dawn and twilight contribute to the poem’s mood?
Answer: The imagery of dawn and twilight contributes to the poem’s mood by creating a sense of transition and the passage of time. Dawn represents new beginnings and youth, while twilight suggests ending and old age, mirroring Tithonus’s transition from a youthful mortal to an aged immortal.
15. What does Tithonus mean by “the goal of ordinance”?
Answer: By “the goal of ordinance,” Tithonus refers to the natural order of life and death, the destined end that all mortals should accept and to which they should adhere, as opposed to the unnatural state of living indefinitely.
16. Discuss the use of apostrophe in the poem. Whom is Tithonus addressing?
Answer: The use of apostrophe in the poem is Tithonus directly addressing the goddess of dawn, Eos, who granted him immortality. This direct address emphasizes his plea for release and his personal connection to the divine being responsible for his fate.
17. How does Tithonus reflect on the concept of change throughout the poem?
Answer: Tithonus reflects on change as an essential and inevitable part of life that he is denied. He reminisces about his own change from youth to old age without the closure of death, highlighting the pain of being static in an ever-changing world.
18. What is the significance of Tithonus’ reference to Greek mythology and the city of Ilion?
Answer: The reference to Greek mythology and the city of Ilion (Troy) situates Tithonus within a larger mythological context, emphasizing the timeless nature of his story and the tragic consequences of meddling with the divine order.
19. How does the poem explore the relationship between love and mortality?
Answer: The poem explores the relationship between love and mortality by showing how Tithonus’s immortal love for the goddess is marred by his mortality. His undying state prevents him from fully experiencing love, which is inherently tied to the mortal experience.
20. What can be inferred about Tithonus’ beloved and their role in his fate?
Answer: It can be inferred that Tithonus’s beloved, the goddess Eos, played a pivotal role in his fate by granting him immortality without eternal youth. Her role is complex, as she is both the source of his eternal life and the unintended cause of his suffering.
1. The speaker in the poem is:
A. The Goddess Aurora B. The Goddess of Sky C. Tithonus D. The sun God Apollo
Answer: C. Tithonus
2. ‘A white hair’d shadow roaming like a dream’ is an example of:
A. Metaphor B. Simile C. Personification D. Alliteration
Answer: B. Simile
3. Tithonus describes his past life as a human on the earth as:
A. Joyful and powerful B. Miserable and weak C. Short-lived and insignificant D. None of the above
Answer: A. Joyful and powerful
4. Tithonus is unhappy because:
A. He is with the goddess of dawn B. He is with other gods C. He has become immortal but grown old D. He has to die like other human beings
Answer: C. He has become immortal but grown old
5. The beauty of the goddess of dawn:
A. Will come to an end after fifty years B. Will be renewed every morning keeping her always the same C. Makes Tithonus jealous of her D. Brings negative thoughts to Tithonus
Answer: B. Will be renewed every morning keeping her always the same
6. Tithonus calls immortality cruel because:
A. It has separated him from the goddess B. It has made him envious of mortals C. It has trapped him in a state of perpetual aging D. It has made him powerful
Answer: C. It has trapped him in a state of perpetual aging
7. Tithonus withers slowly but does not die because:
A. He is cursed B. He is blessed with eternal life C. He is a god D. He is under a spell
Answer: B. He is blessed with eternal life
8. Tithonus felt like God because:
A. He was immortal B. He was powerful C. He was loved by a goddess D. He had supernatural powers
Answer: C. He was loved by a goddess
9. Tithonus compares the goddess with wealthy men because:
A. She is generous B. She is powerful C. She gives gifts without understanding the consequences D. She is admired by all
Answer: C. She gives gifts without understanding the consequences
10. The goddess remains young and beautiful whereas Tithonus grows old and withered because:
A. She is a goddess B. She has a magical charm C. She drinks from the fountain of youth D. She has been granted a different kind of immortality
Answer: A. She is a goddess
11. The poem shows that even the powers of gods are limited because:
A. They cannot prevent aging B. They cannot change fate C. They cannot revoke the gifts they give D. They cannot understand human desires
Answer: C. They cannot revoke the gifts they give
12. The speaker in the poem does not want an old saying to come true because:
A. It predicts his death B. It speaks of eternal suffering C. It is a reminder of his mistake D. It is a curse
Answer: B. It speaks of eternal suffering
13. According to the speaker in the poem, a mist rose into Towers because:
A. It is a natural phenomenon B. It is a symbol of his confusion C. It represents his lost glory D. It signifies the rise of a new era
Answer: C. It represents his lost glory
14. Tithonus calls the earthly people happy because:
A. They are mortal B. They are free C. They are ignorant of immortality D. They live in bliss
Answer: A. They are mortal
15. Why does Tithonus call the boon of his immortality cruel?
A. It has made him lonely B. It has made him suffer endlessly C. It has separated him from his loved ones D. All of the above
Answer: B. It has made him suffer endlessly
16. Describe the place where Tithonus lives with Aurora, the goddess of dawn.
A. A palace in the sky B. A misty region C. A beautiful garden D. A chariot
Answer: B. A misty region
17. Explain the circumstances under which Tithonus was granted immortality.
A. As a gift from the gods B. As a result of a curse C. By the wish of Aurora D. Through a magical potion
Answer: C. By the wish of Aurora
18. What similarity is mentioned between the grant of immortality to Tithonus and the way wealthy people give money to someone?
A. It is given without thought B. It is given generously C. It is given to show off D. It is given with conditions
Answer: A. It is given without thought
19. Why does the speaker want the goddess to rectify the error she has made?
A. To end his suffering B. To restore his youth C. To allow him to die D. To make him happy again
Answer: C. To allow him to die
20. What is the limitation of the gods that Tithonus points out?
A. They cannot love B. They cannot change the past C. They cannot die D. They cannot foresee the consequences of their actions
Answer: D. They cannot foresee the consequences of their actions
About the author
Born in 1809, Alfred Lord Tennyson became one of the Victorian era’s most celebrated English poets. He first received an education at home before attending Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined a group of bright intellectuals. From a young age, Tennyson displayed a talent for writing poetry, eventually garnering fame as a renowned poet over his long 83-year lifetime. In 1850, Queen Victoria appointed Tennyson as Poet Laureate, and later in 1884, she granted him a noble title as Baron Tennyson.
What truly defined Tennyson was his ability to articulate the anxieties, fears, and inner turmoils of the Victorian age within his poetry. Several of his most powerful poems, including “Ulysses,” “In Memoriam,” “The Lotus Eaters,” and “Tithonus,” are still closely studied today in schools and universities worldwide. His poetry provided meaningful insight into the Victorian spirit and remains influential. With his enduring poetry crafted over a lengthy career, Alfred Lord Tennyson stood as one of the Victorian era’s most prominent English poets.
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