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It is tempting to look at a poem like John Keats On Seeing The Elgin Marbles and classify it with his numerous other poems that dwell on growing old and dying On Seeing the Elgin Marbles certainly can be read as a poem that is primarily preoccupied with the idea of mortality However with this particular poem Keats seems to consciously writing with the intent of presenting an alternate meaning to the reader If we choose to acknowledge this possible alternate meaning we can see the poem as transgressing the stereotyped Keats poem instead we can see this as a deliberately failed poem in which Keats lacks the ability to describe his excited internal state With merely the title Keats already sets up a scenario for the reader to clearly picture We are to imagine that Keats has gone to see the famous Elgin Marbles that were being displayed in England shortly before Keats wrote his poem According to Jacob Rothenberg the Elgin marbles arrived in England at the height of the transition from neo-classicism to romanticism In this milieu they served as a focal point around which the most significant aesthetic and critical issues of the day were fought out 444-445 Upon seeing these marbles that were once so beautiful and now were deteriorating they bring about a dizzy pain because he is reminded of the rude Wasting of old time Keats starts the poem with a declarative statement my spirit is too weak and in doing so he sets a tone of despair that pervades the throughout When we question why the narrators spirit is too weak we get the explanation that mortalityweighs heavily on him like unwilling sleep Knowing that Keats frequently agonizes over an ever-impending death we can interpret that when he says mortality he is talking about the agony of coming to grips with the inevitability of death Keats then uses a simile to express what
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