“My Spirit is too weak–Mortality
Weights heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship, tells me I must die
Like a sick Eagle looking at the sky.
Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep
That I have not the cloudy winds to keep,
Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old time-with a billowy main-
A sun-a shadow of a magnitude.”
-John Keats, “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles,” 1817
I read this poem after a long night. It started when I went to a friend’s birthday dinner party at a Latino restaurant in glitzy, American tourist-infested Leicester Square. At one point after dinner, while walking through the winding streets of the Square and its environs, I remember talking to one of my new friends about taking the things that are closest to us for granted: she living in Glastonbury but never attending the famous summer music festival there and I, attending school near the British Museum but hardly ever making the five-minute trek to see the relics of civilization. This was just small talk and I didn’t think much of it at the time. Instead, I went about with the rest of the night. After a while I decided to be a party pooper and retired back to my dorm to get an early start to my essay (not a paper, because that will get you funny looks in England, but a proper essay) due day.
Or so I thought. After an hour and a half of sleep, the fire alarm woke me up at about three in the morning. And me being me, I had a tough time falling asleep afterward. So, to help get through the night I opened up my textbook from my English class and flipped through the pages to find something to pass the time, eventually stumbling on the Keats’ poem.
Even though I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 5:00 in the morning, I wasn’t upset. Instead, I was too busy laughing, having experienced two of life’s many ironies on my Saturday night out.