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Themes

Art-with-a-capital-A, is all over "Constantly Risking Absurdity," whether it's in the tricky nature of finding truth in poetry or simply the performance aspect of it all. It's exciting, dangerous, unpredictable, and terribly fulfilling if the poet can catch Beauty's "fair eternal form" (32). But no matter how high and lofty an artist's goals may be, that little "charleychaplin man" is just as vulnerable to the real world as anyone else. After all, he's constantly risking "absurdity and death" no matter how wonderful and famous he may be. Nothing, especially when it comes to art, is ever guaranteed.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. What's the significance of the imagery in lines 3-5 in terms of the artist performing "above the heads of his audience"? 
  2. How do Art and Beauty relate to one another? Do you necessarily need one to have the other?
  3. What's the deal with those "entrechats" in line 13? How does the acrobat's fancy footwork symbolize the tricky nature of an artist's toolbox? 
  4. Is art really a performance? A trick, even?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

It's all just a show and there's no need to rack our brains for any truth in art. There's only trickery.

Without art and beauty, we're all just silly "charleychaplin" men entertaining one another and biding our time.

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