The Mysteries of Music

As John Keats aces out Arthur Rimbaud as the ultimate “systematic derangement of the senses” practitioner in his Odes, the next, obvious question arises: why does Keats need to systematically derange the senses of both himself and his audience? What does Keats, or his audience, get from it? One answer— not the only by any means— is that the systematic derangement of the senses in Keats’ Odes can stand as a metaphor for the mysteries of poetic music (melopoeia). That is, the exquisite prosodic level of the Odal Cycle— what, first and foremost, makes it peerless in the canon of English language literature— has mysteries hewn into it which Keats is bearing down on incisively by tacking the tack he does. Why do sounds move us, derange our sense and/or moods, the way they do? Why is music, or prosody here, transform consciousness into something more limpid, fluid, ecstatic than it was before? By taking Keats’ prosody and making it our own Grecian Urn to dissolve into (in our derangement), we may begin the work of investigating why the human race might have a need both for music and for poetic language and their transformative power. We also may begin with the acknowledgement that, among its many facets, the Odal Cycle has a way of being “meta,” self-referential— the Odes make a marked attempt, if read correctly, to reference their own effort to create a visionary landscape or mindscape with poetic music, melopoeia, and thus mystify the senses of their readers, scramble sensory data in all directions, all towards dissolution into higher echelons of consciousness.