Chastity and Consummations

Keats’ odal system is quirky. One of its operative features, and a feature actively imposed by Keats in the Odes, is the idea that for the human mind to enter the requisite Platonic world of stilled, immobile, immortal, perfect forms, what is represented and internalized must be a state of sexual chastity, or at least innocence. The quirk is intriguing: what Keats seems to prize most are uncompleted movements towards sexualized (nuptial, so to speak) consummations, so that lovers are eternally in the process of initiating the consummation of their love. The Keats Universe, his Platonic realm where odal action unfolds, is not a world without the possibility of consummation (the completion of spiritual and physical marriages), but a Universe which nonetheless values these possibilities as ends in themselves, rather than possibilities leading into a transcendent realm, above or to the side of it, through their fulfillment. The Bold Lovers (as from Grecian Urn) are eternally bold, and eternally stopped short as well. This is Keats’ vision, reaching towards happy pieties, but with darkling undertones of loss and severed alliances, especially in Melancholy.

My premise, which I would like, at some point, to express in a riposte to Keats and his odal Universe, is that Keatsian “quiet” or “quietude,” as a beatific cognitive-affective plateau to be reached through inspired prosody, can also be reached through completed consummations, completed nuptial rituals, and what attends them. Why it is that sex and sexual intercourse cannot have inhering in them something transcendent for the Keats of Grecian Urn is an open question; for all its sturm und drang around higher cognitions, Keats’ odal quirks remain, to some extent, mysterious, and Keats himself a mysterious priest like the one he assays in said Ode. I have, as an artistic ambition, a specific gateway into this; by elevating the Equations formally to the level of the Cheltenham Elegies, by making them serve visionary ends and not merely pragmatic ones, by aiming not only for the truth-consonant but the exquisite, and by assaying also the creation of a Universe built on achieved, consummated carnality.