First, let me apologize for not getting this post up sooner. I had a bit of a time attempting to unweave this poem for myself and find something that I could make sense of enough to gab about for a few paragraphs.
Though there are only a few stanzas in Keats’ “Lamia” where Lamia is actually a serpent, those lines are filled will vivid descriptions of her color and brilliance. Greens, golds, purples, rosy, vermillion, blue, crimson, silvers, scarlet, and jeweled hues of sapphires and amethyst colors describe the serpent’s speckled and striped skin. Her “rainbow-sided” serpent self, though sad and filled with longing breathed “silver moons” and was of “dazzling hue.”
When she begs to take human form her body and surroundings, though beautiful, are fairly colorless. Throughout the rest of the poem, beautiful scenes are described and her beauty touted above all other human beings, yet Keats uses only green to describe some of the surroundings in Lycius and Lamia’s budding romance. The amount of colors squeezed in to the first few stanzas is not equaled again throughout all the rest of the pages. It seems like Lamia is given the choice of fitting in to the black and white world in which her love inhabits, in this case the human world or being the brightly color and divine serpent, comfortable in her skin—but ultimately alone.
She’s imprisoned and condemned by her beauteous human form. She can have her love, but because she is not her true self, she lives under the constant threat of being found out. When she is a serpent, “Her loveliness invisible, yet free/ to wander as she loves, in liberty” is sacrificed for, “A woman’s shape and charming as before.” And though her love appreciates her beauty, he seems to long for something more. Apollonius’ question seems to bring up those desires as he tries to unweave her beautiful façade, “stronger fancy to reclaim/ Her wild and timid nature to his aim.” He seems to delight in the possible unmasking of his love, despite the fact that he loves her, he wants to get to the bottom of the question that he sees when he sees her beautiful, yet colorless form. It is mentioned several times that Lamia has no blood running through her veins, nor rosy cheek. Can she still be beautiful without the bright rainbow of her full and real self?
My favorite piece of this poem is a question mark, “Whither fled Lamia, now a lady bright,/ A full-born beauty new and exquisite?” Is her new “beauty” in her womanly form really all that beautiful? Keats throughout the rest of the poem alludes to the brightness and perfection of her human beauty, but in a world devoid of color, how beautiful can something really be? I wouldn’t presume that Keats’ intention was to speak to the struggle of this modern woman, but he did. Do I turn down my light so as not to intimidate the man that I want to partner with, or do I tone down my colors so he’ll be confident his will shine? I still haven’t quite got my head around unweaving the rainbow, but Keats seemed to speak directly to me in his heroine’s desire to be with her love, even if it meant loosing herself. I’d love to hear what other people got out of this poem. I realize that while reading it through this lens I have missed other facets of the work.
On a completely different and lighter note, here is a great example of the appeal of any area that inspired Keats’ poetry. (In regards to the destruction of the Lake District as discussed in class.) In the film adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary, which is a loose modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (complete with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy), Bridget tries to convince her boyfriend to go on a mini-break holiday with her. They decide to go to the Alconbury rockery. She tries to sell it to him by saying that it inspired Keats’ “Eve of St. Agnes.” He wants to please her, and so off they head. Of course, the imagery used in “Eve of St. Agnes” is of a freezing and wintery place (the Saint’s Feast Day is in the middle of January). Though she obviously hasn’t read her poetry (inside joke for Keats fans is that the poem is about women trying to find a lover, so they perform this superstitious ritual on St. Agnes Eve. For those of you who aren’t Fielding fans, this same aim is the obsession of Bridget Jones throughout the entire book/film), it is the mention of Keats and his illustrious works that are advertised in the brochure she’s reading. The Keats name alone is what inspires her to prod her boyfriend until he takes her. This scene (one of my favorites) is when they are at the rockery, rowing in boats and making up poetry to read to each other:
BRIDGET: Season of mist… and… mellow fruitlessness.
DANIEL: Oh,fuck me, I love Keats. Have you heard this one? “There was a young woman from Ealing… who had a peculiar feeling. She lay on her back and opened her crack…and pissed all over the ceiling.”
DANIEL:[Bang] Oh, bollocks.
BRIDGET: What’ve you done?
DANIEL: I’m boarding you, Bridge. -Don’t you dare!I’m king of the world! -No! Fuck me. Uhh!