Gnomicon 167

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  167
Tuesday 23 October 2012
Read gnomica 1-150 here!

151     152     153     154     155     156     157     158     159     160     161
162     163     164     165     166

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!

             ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ 15-20  (1819-20)
              John Keats (31 Oct 1795 – 23 Feb 1821)

Today I eschew the customary prolixity.

Since my post last Sunday (Gnomicon 165) I’ve kept coming back to that issue and playing around with it in my head, and I realize I should in that connection have directed attention in the direction of one of my favorite poems in English (by a very fine but not my favorite poet):  John Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’.

Be aware that in my view one of the most splendid least known genres of representational art is that of 6th and 5th centuries BCE Greek vase paintings (starting index to same here).  Stories (often from mythology) are presented in these (usually) small pictorial masterpieces adorning the curved topologies of vases of various shapes and sizes.  And hereon is based the central conceit of Keats’ ekphrasis – a vase with encircling figures forever dancing frozen in place.

In Aimée Anouk’s (Gnomicon 165) terms, the important thing is the desire itself, not its fulfillment.

With that in mind, now think of Keat’s lines again:

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!

There is something ineffably exquisite about this concept that the bold lover will forever be just on the point of — but never actually — kissing the object of desire, and, though — or precisely because — he will never obtain this object of his desire, she will for all time retain that very moment’s timeless beauty that has stirred this yearning desire that, now frozen on the urn, will eternally be just on the point of realization.

What writhing forever-ecstasy!

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