“The Archaic Torso of Apollo” presents a headless statue for the audience’s perusal, without a face with which one can identify. Yet this same lacking bolsters the statue’s appearance, for if the head was there, “the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could / a smile run through the placid hips and thighs” (Archaic Torso, ll. 6-7). Thus the first hint at the deception of sight: eyes, in tandem with brains, automatically isolate one element of a thing and focus upon it, blurring the rest. Only when the usual focus is gone can one truly take in all other aspects as they are, unbiased by the contrived perspective of pre-made assumption (one might also suggest an implication of the saying that “every loss is a gain,” even though the poem predates the quote, coined after Rilke’s death in 1926).
And it is not only through sight that one may ‘see.’ How else can it be that, where the statu...
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...he high achievers” (Sonnet 25, ll. 4, 7). The speaker has thus placed her with the immortals, those who have managed by their lives to inspire others in remembering them; but her talent cost her dearly. Great life was matched in her by great death, shadows that “Again and again, interrupted” her with “darkness and downfall,” until finally she succumbed to illness and “entered the hopelessly open portal” (Sonnet 25, ll. 12, 14). Though the girl did not have a choice in her end and posthumous life, the speaker suggests to his audience that they do; this is the final aspect separating people from beasts and all other things without consciousness. Humans have the power to influence their existence, not only in the present, but the future as well. Every decision is a statement of will: ‘I shall be remembered thusly;’ ‘omit this;’ ‘make this a monument to my ideals;’ etc.
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