Friday 13 June 2008

The Real Thing

Yesterday I paid a visit to the British Museum to have a look at the exhibition of American prints 'from Hopper to Pollock'. In fact, the chronology begins with George Bellows and the Ashcan School and, for me, the show dwindled in interest as the printmakers started aping European modernist models and/or getting political. However, there are a few gems, including the Hopper etchings, which struck me as considerably more accomplished and effective than many of his paintings. There are also some haunting drypoints of New York scenes by Martin Lewis - and, at the end, the Pollocks inject a shot of much-needed energy (he is also represented, bizarrely, by an early, rather inept rustic scene). Anyway, this was hardly an exhibition to make a special trip for - so I took myself off to linger among the Elgin Marbles. These, truly, are something to travel halfway round the world to see - as most of those in the Parthenon galleries seemed to have done. There is nothing to say that hasn't been said a thousand times before (including the entirely correct (imho) assertion that the marbles should stay where they are). But there is always Keats... It's easy to forget just how great a poet Keats is - to pay lip service merely - but a sonnet like this is a potent reminder. Keats can be excessively lush (for some tastes anyway), but the ending of this thrills with its sudden, pared-down vividness. This is the real thing.


  1. I always wonder what Keats might have accomplished had he lived longer. He gave us a box of jewels as it was. Most writers nowadays at the age he lived to be are still in MFA programs.

  2. Those who think Keats can be excessively lush are simply wrong, Nige. The same people would likely go on about how Mallarme and the other French Symbolists joined poetry to music. Keats did it first - and managed to leave the sense in as well. After Shakespeare he is the best poet in the language.

  3. Butterflies, a walk in Surrey, the Elgin Marbles - a delightful blog you have here.