A Vision: Keats’ Experience with Moneta

When going to the replica Parthenon here in Nashville, it is hard to fully understand the structure and all the images that belong to it. After all, it is a structure that is filled with ideas and myths and stories, not  proven truths or evidence of real moments in history. But to John Keats, that does not matter, for he even admits that whether things be “real or imagined” we must “call them truth.” Therefore, his exploration of his interactions with Moneta, the mother of Muses as noted in Greek mythology, is not determined to be a vision or a dream, but that does not matter. What does matter is the experienced interactions between him and the envisioned characters and the images, sounds, and emotions that are evoked in this epic poem.

The image shown is a sculpted moment represented in the Nashville Parthenon, and this particular moment depicts an instance in mythical history of combat and change. In this poem Keats explains his vision through the dialogue between him and Moneta, and the conversation is interjected with Keats’ sifting of his own thoughts, feelings, and spiritual conversation. “Turning from these with awe, once more I raised my eyes to fathom the space in every way,” remarks Keats, as he begins to understand the space in which he breathes and senses (Anthology, pg. 1492, lines 81-82).  He goes on to describe the space, and then his interaction with Moneta leads him to human truths, despite the fact that the experience is yet to be determined as “real”. “And by her voice I knew she shed long-treasured tears,” notes Keats, and the mother of the Muses begins to impart the truths of the painful experience of the fall of Hyperion, the god of the Sun, and what is left at the horned altar and mystical space (lines 220-221). Even Keats himself admits that the wisdom imparted is beyond mortal understanding, and yet, he makes a great and lyrical attempt to translate the image into written words. He strives to “see as a god sees” and recognizes his weakness as being a mere human in the midst of great gods and remarkable experiences.

And it seems difficult for the reader to read the epic work and annunciate what the purpose of the description is, but it is stated in lines in “Canto II”. “Or thou might’st better listen to the wind, whose language is to thee a barren noise, though it blows legend-laden through the trees (lines 4-6).” The truth is what we perceive to be real and able to experience. It is what we allow ourselves to feel, hear, and see. The experience of combat may be real or not, but it is truth to what Keats perceives. His conversation and interaction with the goddess of the Muses is critical to him developing an idea and a truth. It is also a perfect opportunity for the reader to experience the wisdom in the wind or the glittery truths that rest in nature. It prompts the reader to look and sense in every way what is surrounding, whether it be a dream, vision, imagined, or real. We  must call it truth.

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~ by katiearata on October 23, 2012.

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