Transcending Mortality in Art

Shield Depicting Battle

John Keats’ transcendence of human mortality described in Fall of Hyperion grants him the ability to truly appreciate in his eyes the beauty and flood of emotions from viewing Ancient Greek art. Considering this, I will describe a ‘relatively’ similar experience I had while viewing art replicas in the Nashville Parthenon. The photo that I have chosen portrays the interior of the Shield of Athena Parthenos. The interior mural depicts a war of sorts between Gods and Giants reminiscent of the aftermath found in Keat’s Fall of Hyperion: “This temple sad and lone/ Is all spared from the thunder of a war/ Foughten long since by giant hierarchy/ Against rebellion” (Lns. 221-225). I feel that the shield effectively captures the scene described in the work and demonstrates why Keats found it necessary to pay homage to Greek art in the way that he did.

Drawing of Shield Interior

The battle in the mural serves to immortalize history, eternalize the moment. Realizing this, I connected the frozen image of eternal warfare to a passage in Keat’s work as the poet looks onto the face of Moneta–“Not pined by human sorrows, but bright-blanched/ By an immortal sickness which kills not;/ It works a constant change, which happy death/ Can put no end to” (Lns. 257-260). The immortal hue that Moneta possesses is characteristic of a statue found in a museum–of which Keats finds inspiration. The immortality that he describes in the unchanged face of the statue is present in the mural of the shield, as one can see that men are eternally doomed to wage war in the art.

Keats’ description truly gives light to the poetic experience found in appreciating art. The act of the poet dying in Hyperion and resurrecting on the steps of Saturn’s temple allowed him to effectively appreciate the immortality and infinity of the situation that he was observing–a product of Keats’ imagination upon seeing museum exhibits. His death and subsequent rebirth illuminate for the reader an awesome experience that he undergoes: a flood of emotions causing him to excite, weep, and fear in various instances thanks to his negative capability. The figurative death that the poet suffers in Fall serves to depict Keats’ mental transcendence of mortal thinking (in abstract terms). And the product that is the poem Keats writes serves to depict the emotional experience that Keats undergoes. The shield interior shares a similar purpose. When looking at the mural, immortalized are the figures of Gods and Giants leading up to Fall‘s wasteland or the aftermath of the final battle. It provokes the imagination of the viewer to think of the war depicted and its cosmic significance. It provokes thoughts of the Ancient Greeks and the composition of such wonderful art–their myths, infinite possibilities! Any replica in the Nashville Parthenon or actual remnant of Greek Antiquity provokes such thoughts that Keats describes; I merely am excited that I was able to share in his experience.


~ by frightenedinmate2 on October 22, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: