The girl stared at the piazza from her spot on the bridge. She was mesmerised at the idea that things could still amaze her ten times over. She wondered about long days and 3000 word essays, knowing that there was more to the world and here and now, she was experiencing it. Maybe it was the way the sun reflected on the cobblestones making them seem like they were out of an old Audrey Hepburn movie, or maybe it was the way everything seemed to pause as she took in the city. All that mattered was the picturesque, all that mattered was the sublime in that moment. Once, twice, ten times over.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness. ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ — that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”. – John Keats
The girl looked out of the window from Keats’ room. She stood on the same floor, gazed at the same ceiling he did during the age of romanticism. She thought about how uncanny it all was that Keats was here, then thousands of tourists, and now she. Keats spent his last three months in Italy soaking up the sunny south, his poems unappreciated and his life in shackles. What was about great poetry that gave notice to it only posthumously, she thought. What was it about Keats and the ephemeral being that could so easily be lost in time, she wondered. The girl thought about the day she went to the Protestant cemetery.
“Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ In Water,” said Keats’ grave.
The hopelessness that bound him till his very death was chilling, the fact that he was left unacknowledged was chilling. Maybe it’s the belief that nature has a power over man that can’t be paralleled. That all of our names are somehow writ in water unless we do something so great that it supersedes the ebb and flow of the seas.
Terraza Musei Capitolini Campidoglio
“Morality and freedom are as certainly the only bases of the happiness and dignity of the human race as the system of Galileo is the true theory of the celestial motions”. – Anne-Louise-Germain de Staël.
The girl looked over the edge of the terrace. It was the day of the Pakistan Literature Festival in the Capitoline Museums. Walking through the museum, she saw art through the ages. Hints of Madame de Staël’s Corinne withered in the walls, Renaissance and Medieval art flowered the galleries, and the mighty Marcus Aurelius stood large as ever. It was hard to believe how so many things remain unchanged in this city. The girl dreamt of the age of romanticism, of Staël walking through the museum writing Corinne all those years ago—and the girl stood in the same spot: bringing that time back to life all over again. History, literature and art were all intrinsically connected through the tether of time, and the girl stood there holding the tether together through her thoughts.
Piazza di Spagna
“The poetry of the earth is never dead”. -John Keats
The girl thought about the Romantics, the way they changed the face of literature. She thought about how they changed the way words were used and interpreted, the way the world wasn’t divided into shades of black and white. The romantics uncovered the grey areas meshed within. She wondered what it was about these steps that brought together people from so many different backgrounds: artists and painters, poets and revolutionaries, Keats and Shelley. There was something bright at the top of the steps, something more than just an ending. In this city, there were never endings—only prolonged verses and romantic memorabilia.
There is a sense of wonder that surrounds the aura of every writer. The power to create a story out of absolute nothingness is not an easy task, it comes with the power to make others believe in your stories. The girl could have been a character in any story, she could paint herself a world anywhere with anything. Looking out at this view, the girl saw the way the world always contrasted into two, black or white, in or out, yes or no. She could choose any of the two but she didn’t want to have to choose. She could write herself an imagined path that connected Castel St Angelo to Piazza Venezia with a bridge, she could tap her two feet together like Dorothy and appear in Piazza del Popolo. The sun was reflecting back at her, mirroring the city in her eyes and her eyes in the city. The sun was about to set, the day would be over soon.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. – Hamlet.
The girl looked up at the Angel. Her childhood consisted of a belief in the unknown, a belief in angels and heavens beyond that of the ordinary world. But as she grew older she realised that maybe an angel was just an angel, a statue on the edge of a bridge, or someone with a particular angelic facade. But reading Hamlet made her pause and think, there were things that couldn’t be explained by logic. There were things that couldn’t even be dreamt of in her philosophy, and maybe that was okay. Maybe dreams were just figments of the mind created to make life seem flawless and fleeting. Maybe life was about looking up at an angel on the edge of a bridge and realising that there was beauty in this world that didn’t need to be defined, it could just be seen and admired.
The girl looked up at St.Peters. Is it possible to dream of things greater than reality? She wondered. She was always wondering, thinking, and pausing in this city. This city was filled with so many opportunities for creation, yet she was stuck—stationed in her thoughts and chained to her mind. Bestial oblivion or some craven scruple, that’s what Hamlet had said. She wished more than anything for the will to succumb to bestial oblivion, but as time passed by, she realised that some craven scruple was better. Some craven scruple was greater than one thoughtless moment of action. So she went back to St. Peter’s, and stood there: stationary, stagnant, static, and all was okay in the world.