This morning, while taking a much needed detox bath, I found myself watching the bubbles at my feet crack into air like cells releasing fear. How this brought my mind to Keats, I cannot honestly tell you, but that is where it decided to go. My daughter tells me she gets her greatest ideas while she showers and bathes. I tell that’s because water is the keeper of memories and opens our awareness to what is stored inside.
Perhaps this is why the water surrounding my body opened my mind to Keats and his poem, “Ode on Grecian Urn.” I still have my copy from college, penciled with my notes. For a while, as I bathed, I thought about my obsession with the romantic poet, and how I had written my honor’s thesis about his love letters to Fanny Brawne. A few days ago I had come across the thesis while going through old things.
While I soaked in the tub, feeling the tension held inside my muscles give way to the warm water, my mind explored the young poet’s deeper search for love and truth. I thought about how many of Keats’ poems play with ideas greater than the death of the body he knew would lead to his early demise. The last lines of his famous poem, and the words he held within quotes, “‘Beauty is truth, truth is beauty,’ — that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” played out of the cells of my memory.
Below these words, I my college hand wrote the words, “truths are individual & not set & unchanging. What is beautiful to an individual is truth for that individual.” Considered to be one one of the most quoted lines of poetry, there is also much debate over what Keats meant by this statement about beauty and truth. My own interpretation, written many years ago, addresses the subjective nature of beauty and truth, but fails to delve into the deeper Truth of what the dying poet seemed to be striving for. Whether he knew this, or not, is also probably up for debate.
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