But there is no light
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. Keats, John “Ode to a Nightingale”
Melancholy has descended upon me. I’m wondering if the trigger was the movie “Bright Star” that Rayda and I saw the other day. It is the story of the love of John Keats and Fanny Brawne. The problem with stories about Keats is that he always dies at 25, and he dies of consumption every time too. This movie was doubly tough because it focused on his love interest, Ms. Brawne, who took all of this kind of hard. I usually can’t be dragged to a sad movie. This one I went to because I knew there would be a lot of Keats poetry in it. With the exception of Shakespeare, Keats wrote the purest and most beautiful English of any poet in our language. He had the good sense to stop writing at the age at 25, although that decision was thrust upon him. It is a rare poet who can produce anything of true greatness past 30. In fact, it is a rare artist of any kind who can produce anything of true greatness past 30. The soul ages in rough proportion to the body, except to the truly gifted such as Grandma Moses and Nolan Ryan.
At any rate, watching young Keats cough up blood was probably not the most life affirming way to spend a weekend. Although truly, it is a marvelous film. I don’t know anything about the Greek philosophy of drama and the need for the human being to experience catharsis. I’d just as soon that we all hummed along our merry way and never had to deal with the uncomfortable. I always thought that those 7 Dwarves lived a pretty good life until Snow White moved in on them. After that it was nothing but trouble. But you know, no one would go to see a movie about happy dwarves. Walt Disney used to say that every movie has to have a tear. He took that view to its extreme in “Old Yeller”, but I suppose that he was simply being faithful to his source and true to his artistic vision.
It can be a sad world, but sadness is often made beautiful. Keats’ buddy Shelly said it best. “We look before and after and pine for what is not. Our sincerest laughter, with some pain is fraught. Our sweetest tales are those which tell of saddest thought.” In other words, the human being is not a Skylark, or a spelunker dwarf for that matter. So we have to take the sadness of life and make the best of it. We have to learn from it and try to make things of beauty from it as we wind through these “ mossy ways”. And then, of course, there is always Prozac.