Revision – Woeful Women: Moneta and Evadne as Shades of the Past

I would most readily relate Evadne – a woman we have witnessed falling from society’s highest social graces, as a wealthy Greek Princess, into a lowly place of impoverished obscurity – with Keats’ representation of the goddess Moneta in The Fall of Hyperion.  In Roman mythology, Moneta is revered as the goddess of memory, and in Keats’ poetry, she is summoned as the priestess of the past, the protector of the ruined temple: “and by her voice I knew she shed/Long treasured tears. ‘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.” She represents the mournful shadow of the past, as she dwells among the rubble of the grand temple.  Prior to entering this scene of pain and desolation, Keats finds himself in Edenic pleasure, which makes his transition into a mere memory of those glorious days even more disturbing and sentimental.  Similarly, Evadne embraces the hope of memory as she awaits her death with the promise of nostalgic existence in the afterlife.  In a lamentable, yet also hopeful fashion, Evande says to Lionel Verney, “‘This is the end of love!-Yet not the end!’ – and frenzy lent her strength as she cast her arm up to heaven: ‘there is the end! there we meet again’” (181).  Just as Moneta finds that the ultimate space in which she dwells – amongst the rubble of the temple – a nostalgic memory to a greater time, Evadne regards her final resting place in heaven as the spiritual memorial to her love with Lord Raymond.

These notions of nostalgia are well established in the character of Evadne, yet unlike Moneta (who wholly embraces her role as the goddess of maintaining the memory of what used to be), Evadne is far more fickle, as she also ardently fights against memory when she refuses her desire to return to her comfortable status out of the more pressing need to maintain her pride.  As she explains to Lord Raymond, “This may seem madness to you, yet you also have pride and resolution; do not then wonder that my pride is tameless, my resolution unalterable” (Shelley 111).  Unlike Montea – who possesses both an understanding of the unfortunate present state of affairs, and therefore, a true appreciation for past glory – Evadne wholly accepts her fate as a princess turned beggar, yet lacks an appreciation for her past wealth, made evident by her refusal to swallow her pride and seek refuge in the company of the royals.

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~ by Romantic Fanatic on November 14, 2012.

One Response to “Revision – Woeful Women: Moneta and Evadne as Shades of the Past”

  1. This post offers a tight-knit comparative analysis of Evadne and Moneta. Although Evadne disavows her memory of her political past, she refuses nonetheless to forget her past love for Lord Raymond, her knight in shining armor and protector of Greece. Her memory is therefore selective, not completely obliterated. Unlike Moneta, Evadne sees in her lover, Lord Raymond, a vision of her past former glory. In this sense, the Raymond-Evadne relationship could be read as an inversion of the poet-Moneta relationship.

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