Of Graves and Poets
IT IS no small part of the beauty of the so-called Protestant Cemetery in Rome that Keats is buried there. The word felicity comes to mind around this fact, because it is of that order of experience to be brought up against all the tough intellectual rigor, the nearly impossible demands of vision and fitness of thought, that went into his sense of “beauty” and could make it equate with “truth”-the very opposite of wallowing in facile landscape. Yet of course there is another fitness in the place having remained as beautiful as it has in the ordinary meaning, and still another in his having some rather good company there, though mostly of later times and on the whole of something less than the genius often vaguely associated with it. The charm, taking that word too as deeply as we can manage, of this piece of ground next to Rome’s one Pyramid, while enhanced by thoughts of the “truly great,” is both more and less than the titillation of looking at tombstones of famous people. Less because there are not so many there, far fewer than of their and other people’s infant children. More because the charm is of Rome itself, in its hold on the mind of the world outside Italy.
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