Metaphorical Moneta

While we explored the awe-inspiring Nashville replica of the Parthenon, I found myself struck by the crumbling casts of the Elgin Marbles.  Our tour guide had given us special directions to pay careful attention to the backs of the impressive statues: he explained that although the Athenians themselves would not see the backs of an Elgin Marble, the gods would certainly be able to see the statue in its entirety.  Therefore, it was imperative that the whole creation be worthy of the gods’ witness.  In the picture included in this post, I took a photo of the back of a recreated Elgin Marble, which was certainly as (if not more) magnificent as the front of the sculpture.  The back of the sculpted man emphasizes ever contour and curve of his figure.

Yet despite their magnificence, the Elgin Marbles convey a sense of sadness, as they exist in a desecrated state, as they are mere ruins of the glorious creations they once were.  Perhaps this is the point of Keats’ The Fall of Hyperion that we can identify as so deeply invested in the nostalgia of the Parthenon’s Elgin Marbles. Keats dictates the words of Moneta:

‘This temple, sad and lone,
‘Is all spar’d from the thunder of a war
‘Foughten long since by giant hierarchy
‘Against rebellion: this old image here,
‘Whose carved features wrinkled as he fell,
‘Is Saturn’s; I Moneta, left supreme
‘Sole priestess of this desolation.’

As the Greek goddess of memory, Moneta serves as the immortal manifestation of the glory of the grand Parthenon of the past.  More specifically, Keats molds the image of Moneta to be that of an Elgin Marble: as the self-proclaimed “Sole priestess of this desolation”, she accepts her duty to communicate through the lonely rubble the majestic spectacle from which the rubble broke.  Perhaps Moneta’s duty pairs well with the Athenian need to perfect every facet of the Elgin Marble: while the human eye may not be equipped to appreciate the sight of the deteriorating image, Metaphorical Moneta nods to the beauty of the decimation of an extraordinary creation.  She, as Keats’ muse, can explain the destruction.

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~ by Romantic Fanatic on October 22, 2012.

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