"The Palace of Art" (text) seems to illustrate a pattern (similar to that of "The Lady of Shalott") in which the poem slowly paints an idyllic world which is ultimately shattered in the final stanzas. What appears to be the most interesting transition at the end of the poem is the speaker's sudden loss of place and identity. Here, we do not simply come to see the artist as a slave to time:
And death and life she hated equally,
And nothing saw, for her despair,
But dreadful time, dreadful eternity,
No comfort anywhere
We also begin to see the artist as a romantic pursuer of illusions. The palace suddenly becomes irrelevant, or perhaps nonexistent, in the larger context of the poem, and the artist who occupies him or herself with godlike aspirations is left to his or her own mortal demise. At this point, we realize that the soul's removal from the more realistic and human world becomes not only its vice but its downfall. In lines 261-264, the soul/artist becomes disoriented:
She, mouldering with the dull earth's mouldering sod,
Inwrapt tenfold in slothful shame,
Lay there exiled from eternal God,
Lost to her place and name.
Time here plays an important role in the demise of the artist who although he is a creator is not immortal as is "the eternal God." However, it is not only time, but place which ceases to exist for the soul at this point in the poem. Here, we see a sharp change from the beginning of the poem which takes care to create a detailed sense of place with its descriptions of the palace's rooms. We thus come to see that the artist's godlike existence entails a degree of romanticized isolation. This removal from humanity then causes the artist to lose a fixed identity; the soul no longer feels a definite notion of placement and name within the larger world. Thus the artist, being so ensconced in his or her own visionary world loses his or her humanity. We must then ask, if the artist is not a god and if he or she does not benefit from the defining, human characteristics of place and name, does the artist even exist?
Last modified 7 September 2003