—a sonnet of differing with Keats

Behold this naked truth, and say not Beauty:
a body splayed, nailed cruelly to a tree,
spit upon, a jeering crowd, a crown
of thorns—blood stains and pain, not artistry.
Beauty may hold but cannot be this truth
of suffering, the mortal cross. Golgotha!

Fair Aphrodite serves not rules the truth of grief
and ecstasy. Let pipes and timbrels play,
maidens forever young on Grecian urns.
O Attic shape! fair attitude!—yes, gladness.
Bring forth angelic harps in exaltation!
Yet, refrain: beauty enthroned is madness.

Hope is beauty, beauty is hope, the light!
A lofty promise, the other side of night.


The poetry of Leland James has been published worldwide in over fifty journals and magazines, including The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Society of Classical Poets Journal, The South Carolina Review, New Millennium Writers, Vallum, Orbis, and Aesthetica, Leland was an International Publication Prize winner in the Atlanta Review poetry competition, winner of the Portland Pen Poetry Prize, and runners up for Society of Classical Poets, Fish International and the Welsh Poetry prizes. He received the Franklin-Christoph Merit Award for Poetry in 2008 He lives in a cabin in the woods in northern Michigan with his wife of 40 years. You may see more of his poetry at www.lelandjamespoet.com.

Featured Image: Tracing of an engraving of the Sosibios vase by John Keats


“Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
       Of deities or mortals, or of both,
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
         For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
                For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
                Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
         When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

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