Truth In Keats' Ode On A Grecian Urn And Cummings' Since Feeling Is First

1816 words - 7 pages

Truth in Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn and Cummings' since feeling is first

Truth remains a mysterious essential: sought out, created, and destroyed in countless metaphysical arguments through time. Whether argued as being absolute or relative, universal or personal, no thought is perceived or conceived without an assessment of its truth. In John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and E.E. Cummings' "since feeling is first" the concern is not specifically the truth of a thought, but rather, the general nature of truth; the foundation which gives truth is trueness . Both poets replace investigation with decision, and that which would be argumentation in the hands of philosophers becomes example and sentiment in their poems. Each poet's examples create a resonance within the reader, engineered to engender belief or provoke thought. Employing images of unconsummated actions on an ancient urn carved with scenes from life, Keats suggests that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"; Cummings, on the other hand, offers emotion as the foundation of truth, and supports living life fully through diction, theme-suggestive syntax, and images of accomplished action.

Cummings' "since feeling is first" compares the beauty of emotion and the inadequacy of mental analysis. In line three, attention to "syntax," synonymous with literary construction and order, ruins emotional spontaneity, symbolized by a kiss. "Wholly to be a fool while Spring is in the world" ignores social convention in seeking pleasure while "fool" and "Spring" complement each other and suggest the blossoming of love. Line six, "my blood approves," focuses on the physical root of life and evades the hackneyed connotative baggage that arrives with the word "heart." Cummings then swears "by all flowers;" taking his oath on natural beauty, reflecting Ralph Waldo Emerson's view in "The Rhodora" that, "if eyes were made for seeing,/ Then Beauty is its own excuse for being" (Prentice Hall 284). The importance of the flowers (whose beauty explains their existence) parallels the importance of pleasure for pleasure's sake emphasized in lines seven and eight: "kisses are a better fate than wisdom." Lines 10-11,"The best gesture of my brain is less than your eyelids' flutter," lend importance to the uncontrolled, pristine expressiveness of the body (contained in an "eyelids' flutter") which over-shadows the contrived, socially conventional action connotated by "gesture." Furthermore, the anatomically specific "brain" defines the gesture as a solely rational act without creativity. The "laugh" of line 13, a spontaneous expression of joy, further contrasts with the "gesture" and finds the "lady" addressed in line nine "leaning back in [the speaker's] arms," "arms" which associate strength with the human expression of love and emotion. Cummings' assertion that "Life is not a paragraph" fosters a sense of freedom by reinforcing the absence of universal rules and structure begun in line three ("syntax") and...

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