A Man in a Bistro Talks of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” [flash fiction]

A man in a bistro on a chair at a table across from a woman sitting on the banquet in the far corner diagonally opposite the entrance on the right as you walk in is talking as they have been talking about this or that or some other thing, now another, then yet another, whether it be the politics of the middle east, or the current situation in Europe concerning some of the backlash after the most recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, or what they have been reading of late, or what they used to study in college, or what their favorite films are might be could be but are not really, or the weather, or their most recent vacation, or the rise of inconsideration while riding the subway; or poetry, for which the man says something about John Keats, as Keats has come up in conversation, as Keats always comes up in this man’s conversations about poetry–how could he not, he would say about Shelley’s younger contemporary: “Keats is not saying Beauty is Truth at the close of his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” no. When he says “Truth is Beauty,” he follows with “Beauty Truth,” no comma between the words. Yes, “Truth is Beauty” means what it says, that Beauty is the complement of Truth, the verb ‘be’ we know does not take an object–Beauty, the subject complement in the fore stated syntax. Of course, we should say; but that is not where it ends for Keats. Beauty, in the fore mentioned construction is the complement of Truth, yes; however, what follows we must look at more closely and carefully: “Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth.” The comma in the fore going syntax quoted sets off an appositive phrase for the complement, Beauty. Thus, Truth is not only Beauty, but it is Beauty Truth. It is an intrinsic and an inseparable unity. What kind of Truth is Truth, it is Beauty Truth; and if it is not this, it is not Truth. If it had been written “Beauty [comma] Truth,” then it would have meant a parallel clause was introduced, the comma indicating in that syntax the inferred verb to be. “Beauty [comma] Truth,” if written this way would have pointed to another conclusion, that being Truth is Beauty, Beauty is Truth; but that is not what Keats did. Instead of each being the other, instead of the subject complements being inverted and shown to be mutual and reciprocal, Keats shows us just what kind of Truth he is referring to, and that is Beauty Truth, one and only one metaphysical Truth, and that is the unity of Beauty Truth. They are a continuum as is space-time. I guess Keats could have used a hyphen, but then their would be no orchestration of ambiguity. Now, to discuss either without the other is impossible in Keats’s aesthetics, but also in his metaphysics. For Keats, aesthetics has profound implications for epistemology, ethics and metaphysics. In this way, Keats just might be the spiritual kin of Schiller–but I do not want to stretch things too much here.”


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