Monday, 5 November 2012

The family lives of the great poems, part I

Since properly making their acquaintance, which was not really until my joyous days at Aberystwyth University, I've had a somewhat heterodox view of Keats' Odes. I prefer Melancholy and Autumn to those usually afforded the top two places in the Keats Premier Ode League, Nightingale and Grecian Urn.  Part of my problem with 'Urn' is the opening:

'Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness!
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time'

There is just too much relationship going on here for my inadequate brain to handle.  The poor Urn not only has unusual foster-parents but is sitting, twiddling its thumbs (or possibly wagging its handles) waiting for its marriage to the oddly-named 'Quietness' (surely a little too closely-related to Silence?) to be consummated.

Thinking again about the poem today, for no apparent reason other than that I'm working part-time in a call centre, and my mind is therefore not necessarily being stimulated by a constant round of creative and diverse challenges, I couldn't help but imagine the scene at the local council when  Silence and Slow Time were introduced by Social Services to their new foster-child.  Silence, of course, would not raise any objections, or would only do so through some kind of mime, while Slow Time would probably write a careful and beautifully-phrased letter of complaint once their new charge had grown up, left home and entered a state of less than fulfilled marital bliss with Quietness.

I also imagine Silence berating - with appropriate hand gestures - Slow Time for having taken so long to fix the shed door, while the latter would reply that it wished Silence would speak up and that it had never heard the request in the first place.

And what would happen if Urn ever wished to seek out its biological parents?  The whole scenario is fraught with complications.

Aberystwyth, by the way, (which, I am proud to say, baffles Microsoft's spell-checking algorithm) provided both an idyllic landscape in which to live and study (although the town itself has, in a rather charming way, never quite disassociated itself from the 1940s) and an excellent English Literature course, more about which some other time.

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