is truth beauty ?

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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is truth beauty ?

Postby sinoda » Thu Jul 27, 2006 1:01 pm

Hi all you cuties out there !

i would like to have your comments on this astonishing reply
Frank Zappa :
..."wisdom is not truth, truth is not beauty, beauty is not love"...
(from the song "Packard Goose" on the album "Joe's Garage")

Jonny Keates
most quoted peak in his "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
..."»Beauty is truth, truth beauty,« - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."...


was it just 23 years old Jonny's narrow-minded point of view on life, that made him treat us other posthumous late-comers as eternal kiddies ?
honestly, i am more inclined to adopt Franky's statement than to subscribe to Jonny's assertion.
nevertheless i am not sure if his quote (supposingly written on that grecian urne) might not reveal a further and deeper sense in the eyes of a more pundit guy than me.

so please enlight me !
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Postby greymouse » Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:06 pm

Hi Sinoda,

Well, this might sound like blasphemy on a forum like this, but I agree with Mr. Zappa on this as well. I think Keats' statement has a lot to do with his age, his circumstances, and his talent. I think he probably had more beautiful thoughts in a second than most people do in a day, and I think he was a little morbid and felt that the only purpose of his life must be to create and describe beauty for the short time he was alive. I think deep in his gut he truly desired immortality.

Keats sure placed a high value on beauty though and it helped to define the glorious 19th century aesthetic; the opening to Endymion is pretty much the same song.

That's what I think, but I think members who have read more of his letters and biographies could give a better answer.
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Postby dks » Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:13 pm

:shock: I disagree completely. Here's why:

Keats's statement that "Beauty is Truth and Truth Beauty" was not meant to be a cryptic idea about life, but rather a statement about poesy.

He is asserting his creed, here, if you will--the poet's creed. He is talking about his development as a poet and his recognition and integration of the poetic process. Keats was far too self aware to make such a statement and fling it out as a mode of living. He himself often stated that he was ill-equipped to wield philosophies since he was so young. If you read his letters in conjunction with his poetry, this is clear. He goes into great detail about what things form "Men of Achievement." He also talks about his ability to be that "Camelion Poet." The poet who fully submerges himself into his surroundings in order to glean Beauty and proceed to emit it out as Truth or poetry.

Now, what Frank Zappa was talking about, I'm not ever too certain. :lol:
"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of Imagination."
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Postby Credo Buffa » Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:48 pm

I agree with you, Denise. If Keats was talking about everyday living there, it would definitely be a debatable statement, but as he's talking about how he views the world through a poet's eyes, coupled with his belief in the power of poetry, then I think we have to agree with him. Truths which in everyday life are often quite ugly can be beautiful when considered through the lense of a poet, who must scrutinize the entire world and its components rather than just pick and choose. For example, we so often see Keats writing about pleasure in pain. Obviously, pain itself isn't a pleasurable experience. But Keats the poet reminds us that pain is a physical and emotional experience that brings us closer to our own humanity and mortality, and that it is akin to pleasure and beauty in that they are both part of the temporary condition of living. For that reason, we shouldn't associate pain with suffering any more than we should associate it with happiness, or associate pleasure with ease rather than sadness or suspicion.
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Postby dks » Thu Jul 27, 2006 5:50 pm

Ahhh, no, Thank YOU, Credo! :lol:

Yes, that's exactly it.
"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of Imagination."
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Postby Brave Archer » Sun Jul 30, 2006 11:51 pm

Anyth ing rare is beautiful. And truth is definately a rarity today. Bu t the statement truth beauty. . . is m ost surely not a life reasoning statement.
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Re: is truth beauty ?

Postby HooKnoo » Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:04 pm

Beauty is truth, truth beauty.

It may or may not be true for us, but its certainly all the urn knows. And all it needs to know.

As a reader of the poem, I can't help but see the phrase as a desperate wish. Keats seems to desire the truth to be what the urn claims it to be. Even as a grown man I have many simple little pieces of Art that I turn to, when the going gets tough, and try and convince myself that life should be that way. (e.g. I've learned the hard way that if you follow the white rabbit down the rabbit hole everything will not always be okay in the end.)

But, here, Keats does what we all do: he turns to a favorite work of art and says "Thank god you're still here. If only the world were like you make it seem to be" Ultimately, I find the poem beautifully sad.
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