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,\ KEATS THE APOLLINJAN: THE -TIME-AND-SPACE LOGIC OF HIS POEMS AS PAINTINGS RoBERT WoosTER STALLMAN THE soul of a Keats poem is intelligible only by _ having regard to the poet's conception of time. Time is Keats' cardinal theme, figuring either as· the total intention of his poems or as .the -obsessive motif of his minute particulars. His basic motivating intention, as disclosed within the framework of his poems, ·was to arrest in formed orders of meaning this fundamental o( philosophic thought. It is time that is tragic, Spengler writes, and it is by the meaning.a culture intuitively attaches to time that one culture is differentiat~d from another. The same principle holds, I believe, for the artist or poet: it is the artist's conception of time that singularly differentiates him. Of the two poets in Keats-the poet who most passionateiy affirms, and the poet who most passionately denies, time-it is the intensely time-conscious poet who has affinities with Hardy and Shakespeare. 0 aching time! 0 moments big as years! I Time is felt by the poet with all the intensity of an opposition. For all is change, and in the moment now lies the burden· of the moment before and the moment after. Keats' poetry, charged with emotions arising from the contemplation of ''the gradual sand ·that through an hour-glass runs," is filled with the intensity of Marvell's time-sense: But at my bad:.! always hear Time's winged chariot hurrying near..•• Like Proust, Keats was obsessed with this time-conflict. Everywhere in his poetry~ not only in the later poems expressing his premonition of death, but equally in the earlier ones, like "On Death" (1814) or "When I Have Fears" (1818), time -was the enemy. That was his greatest torture: his profound and painful consciousness of time's uniquGly occurring onceness and irreversibility, the impossibility that "a rose should shutand he a bud again." The same contradiction in futuristic terms is stated in the sonnet to Rice C'O that a week could be an age"): So could we live long life in little space, So time itself would be annihilate.... But only art annihilates time. Art distils the fleeting moment, fixing timefree Porphyro's "endless minutes~, - ; Keats' problem as artist was to transcend his ·time-consciousness. The pastis ''an immortal youth," he remarked to Severn, "just as there is no Now or Tlun for the Holy Ghost.',. On the same general theme Severn 143 I ·144 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY ' / noted: (tHe was the first to point out to me how es'sentially modern that Spirit [of the past] is." Keats states this problem in his I(Laurel Crown" sonnet to Leigh Hunt (1816). Minutes are flying swiftly, and as yet Nothing unearthly has enticed my brain Into a Delphic labyrinth-! would fain,. Catch an immortal thought..... Within the time-limit of the sonnet, what is attempted, a present vision, fails to _ materialize: Still time is fleeting, and no dream arises Gorgeous as I would have it.... Instead of evoking a sense of suspended time, the poem conveys a sense of time's direction. Instead of being, the poem is becoming. Keats' theme here is the failure of the poet to triumph over time. MacLeish states the problem thus: A poem should not mean But-be. His "Ars Poetica, fails, as does Keats' sonnet, by the dictum of its own expres_ sed theme. Keats even invites us to sympathize with his declared failure. In the sonnet "To a Young Lady'' (1815) he again fails to triumph over time. The time-logic of the poem (its thought being expressed ·as a future action unarrested in "this mighty moment") is futuristic. The problem of the artist is to triumph over time: to arrest time is the function of art. The poetry -which arrests time .point-wise may be described 'as the· poetry of the moment. Keats' poetry, at its best occasions, is a poetry of the moment and the near and the stilL · His gre-atest poems render an Apollinian pure-present: their time-logic is a point-present now. This is the thesis of my discourse. My...


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