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Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Elusive Love Affair







"Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunt about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal - yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!


When I was introduced to John Keats, I fell instantly in love with him. He was the man I had waited all my life to meet. My heart nearly came out of my chest, my eyes filled with so many tears I could no longer see the reality before me, and my inner spirit broke from my physical body hurrying to meet his lips with my own, to declare my undying love forevermore, to this man. I am meeting the man of my dreams, I thought. Only one thing kept us apart: He died a century and a half before I was born. His words were all that was left to me, to linger in my dreary world.

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.





I searched high and low for his words, ever so present while he, so far in time, I could not touch him, remained vivid in my heart and mind. I promised to declare my ever undying love, and pursue where I may to find his thought, his heart, his undying love, to me personally. I thought of his child-like nature, his fluid curiosity, his sweet sensitivity, his sorrow and melancholy reminiscence of those things that can never be taken away from us; those images, those senses of time stood still.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

Although I knew in my mind that I could never really see him, I knew in my heart that he would always be the lover of my soul, and that his ever present words would live within me, to goad me on to seek a higher form of love, a deeper sense of being, and a longer desire for the beautiful. How longing could be fatal to a heart on earth when there is not the one love to nurture the fruition of one's garden, unless one does keep the memory of his being, alive in one's own words and letters of love.



O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

Difficult as it is, to wish for someone of such caliber that turns a heart to light and warms a body to ecstacy, as an intellect such as this would do, it becomes a measure stick; a gauging cross; a sumation of the balanced whole, one strives to attain in another. And so, I look endlessly, for this man--this monument of a man, who died way too young at 24, while his ancient soul continues in me the prospect of a perfect love; a love of beauty and truth...

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

~ John Keats (1795–1821)

John Keats' Death Mask



Written in 1819, 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' was the third of the five 'great odes' of 1819, which are generally believed to have been written in the following order - Psyche, Nightingale, Grecian Urn, Melancholy, and Autumn. Of the five, Grecian Urn and Melancholy are merely dated '1819'. Critics have used vague references in Keats's letters as well as thematic progression to assign order. ('Ode on Indolence', though written in March 1819, perhaps before Grecian Urn, is not considered one of the 'great odes'.)




This ode contains the most discussed two lines in all of Keats's poetry - '"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.' The exact meaning of those lines is disputed by everyone; no less a critic than TS Eliot considered them a blight upon an otherwise beautiful poem. Scholars have been unable to agree to whom the last thirteen lines of the poem are addressed. Arguments can be made for any of the four most obvious possibilities, -poet to reader, urn to reader, poet to urn, poet to figures on the urn. The issue is further confused by the change in quotation marks between the original manuscript copy of the ode and the 1820 published edition. (This issue is further discussed at the bottom of this page.)

http://englishhistory.net/keats/poetry/brightstar.html



And then, I realized I was not the ONLY woman in love with this man. I found out about Fanny. I was not devastated, as she was fortunate enough to live in his century, and kept him warm and comfortable for me, in her arms, as I would have, had I had the fate to be at that time, in that place, where the man lived and breathed. She also suffered the greatest of losses, when he broke with her, having succumbed to tuberculosis--his breaking off really a blessing rather than a curse. His last poetic thoughts were of her (he did not know me), and he wrote this most beautiful love prayer--I call it--in memory of her in pre-postumously. Would I ever meet one such as this man?




Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.


So as not for you to think me so heady in such manner as this, I would let you know that I can be as shallow and superfluous as any one else, and the next statement is to the question usually asked by those who know not what else to say in awe of a situation: "so...what sign are you?" Keats was born on October 31, 1795, so he was a Scorpio...  




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