Thoughts on beauty, art and Keats.

The David

How did Michaelangelo manage this,  carving immortality from stone, transforming rock to such an icon of human achievement?  How did he choose the sitter, the pose, the stone?  What was he wanting to do, when he chiselled such an ideal of male beauty ?  He handed down a legacy of challenge to the crowd.  Do you hold beauty to be a virtue?  Did he? I look on this marble man, and don’t imagine him drinking a cup of tea, or kicking a football.  He is a paragon. A hero. Do I look on him and desire him, or desire to be LIKE him.  In a strange way , this statue leaves me cold. It did when I met it, and it does now.  I can’t aspire to either state, and so I can’t have an emotional response to this magnificent , exquisitely crafted piece.  I feel almost inadequate because of that.  I recognise its mastery, but I don’t love it.

I love Keats. I recognised him immediately. I had exactly the opposite response to him as an artist, as I did to Michelangelo, when meeting their art.  I fell a little in love , when I first read Keats. Then I went to his rooms in Rome, where he went, in the hope of recuperation, but sadly died. Such an early death of a great talent. His energy was still in those rooms, where now a small museum remembers him, and maintains his bedroom as it was then, overlooking the Spanish Steps.

I find Keats in Rome

I did not expect to find you here,
in this corner room, with the window
overlooking the Spanish Steps.
(sounds of today no different now.)

Where your journey ended, in battle
fought with a familiar adversary;

Mother, then brother claimed

by that same fate, only summers ago.

Too young to die, having already come so far.
(My flesh, my bones sense you still.)

For you are here, and everywhere
where like- minded spirits read
your words.(Breathe them, consume them.)
I wander about this room, wonder about the man,
moved by the sense of life that lingers on.
A fireplace whereon you toasted bread
sometimes too weak to eat, or even raise your head.
Room for a bed, not much more, a desk
by the window (oh!, you loved that view);
where Roman light illumined ,
sounds of the day clattering in.
Where Joseph Severn recreated

the goings on, that were passing you by.
He painted you , not once, but seven times, each
more lovingly than before.

I tremble at how Fanny cared;
the communion so brief on earth,

she grieved seven years (Seven years!)
I, having never known the man, know why.
Your soul permeates Time, as once

your love moved her.

You haunt me, a wandering tourist
overlooking excavated ruins in the Forum,
baffled by Times’ curious tricks;
The Rome that uncovers itself now
is not the Rome once revealed to you,
though it had stood centuries
before either of we two.
Rome embraced you, remembers you,
cradles and will continue to.


poem by me, anne corr.  


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