The immortal Tithonus lives forever like thought without substance in "Tithonus" (1860) by Tennyson. Because Eos forgot to obtain for him the gift of immortal youth, his body withers and deteriorates, and he becomes a shadow, a dream of what he once was. "Tithonus" is told in first-person like Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode," but the narrator is not the poet. Instead, the speaker in Tennyson's Victorian poem is the protagonist of the Greek myth on which the poem is based. Tithonus exists in solitude, roaming the world.
"Dejection: An Ode" also concerns theme of loss and change through time. Coleridge, having lost his health, youthful joy, and creativity, has died in the same symbolic sense as has Tithonus, although both men continue to exist among the living. Both poets express the same tribulations, but Coleridge expresses them himself, while Tennyson does so through the guise of myth. Both poems are open-ended, creating the feeling that Tithonus will live and Coleridge will lie awake forever. Therefore, both Tithonus and Coleridge express a longing for the past and a dissatisfaction for the present conditions. Coleridge, wishing for sleep, pursues the same desire Tithonus has for death.
Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000