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Ode on a Grecian Urn
Transcript of Ode on a Grecian Urn
Original Poem by John Keats
In his poem, Keats has his narrator attempt to interact and understand the Grecian urn that he observes. According to one critic, Bruce King, Keats wishes to convey that the urn, with all of its drawings of scenes of human life that are "frozen" in time, has an
because it does not and will not age or die. The urn, as a form of art, is
permanent and beautiful
, and is therefore a
to man, who must one day die and can
look upon the urn as a source of relief.
The first stanza introduces the urn. In this stanza, what Keats does is creates the image of a still, never-changing object. This is pointed out by Bloom in his criticism. Also, it creates an immortal character that will never die because it isn't truly human, and is a figment of the poet's imagination. This connection between art and poetry is made in Ward's criticism, creating a bridge between the ever changing life of the poet and the never changing life of the art.
Second & Third Stanzas
The second stanza introduces the piper and his lover. Although the piper's music isn't heard, Bloom points out the the idea of music is much more preferable than actually hearing the music. This eludes to the notion that the potential for music is more appealing because it enhances the idea of an eternal, unchanging world.
The third stanza is a direct connection to the second, because the piper is playing to his lover. The piper knows he cannot kiss her, but much prefers being able to remain young and beautiful for eternity.
The fourth stanza is actually much more morbid than the first three. Unlike the first three which elude to eternal love, the fourth brings in a world of emptiness and ritual. This "pastoral" scene shows a village bringing a cow to be sacrificed. Bloom points out that in exchange for the content lives they live in this eternal world, they do have to pay a "terrible price". As the people leave, it as almost if the town becomes hollow, and none of the love ever existed on the vacant streets they leave behind.
Finally, the last stanza reminds us that this isn't real life, and is just a piece of art (as read by Bloom). What Keat's connects is that art is eternal, and this is contrasted with the fact that Keat's is a mortal being, with an ever changing life that will never resemble the picturesque images on the urn. The quote that brings the most debate is "Beauty is truth, truth beauty". From most criticisms, no one can quite divulge the true meaning of this besides the fact that
Poetic Techniques and Style
Keats personifies the urn in the poem by giving it human-like characteristics. By calling the urn a "bride of quietness", a "foster-child of Silence and slow Time", and a "historian", Keats allows his readers to believe that the urn has a
living, breathing quality
ability to hold memories and tell stories
like a human.
Keats uses imagery when describing the drawings on the urn. His imagery allows the reader to visualize what the narrator sees, doing so in a way that leads the reader to believe the scenes are beautiful and mystical.
"To what green alter, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?"
Keats also uses punctuation throughout his poem to convey his theme. Using frequent exclamation points and question marks, Keats gives his poem expression and drama and allows the reader to observe how absorbed the narrator has become with the urn.
"More happy love! more happy, happy love!
"What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?"
Keats' choice of words also helps convey his theme.
- remind the reader of his idea that the urn is immortal and timeless ("forever", "never", "evermore")
- make the urn appear beautiful and priceless ("sweet", "silent", "fair")
Ward, Aileen. "The Relationship between the
Visual Arts and Poetry." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 6 Apr. 2014 <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=16254&SID=5&iPin=BMPJK10&SingleRecord=True>.
King, Bruce. "An Overview of “Ode on a
Grecian Urn”." Poetry for Students. Detroit: Gale, n.d. N. pag. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE|H1420003534&v=2.1&u=nysl_li_esuff&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w&asid=ab09134083bde4a73605fdd5a643bb5a>.
Bloom, Harold, ed. ""Ode on a Grecian Urn"."
Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 6 Apr. 2014 <http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&WID=16254&SID=5&iPin=BMPJK04&SingleRecord=True>.
Keats employs several poetic techniques to express and emphasize his theme.
- 10 syllables in each line, with 5 pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables
- ABABCDE, then a variation of CDE, such as CED, or DCE.
"ABAB"-praise the urn
"CDE variations"-study the urn
Ode on a Grecian Urn
THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape 5
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 10
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 15
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 20
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 25
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 30
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore, 35
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return. 40
O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 45
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.' 50
In the last stanza, Keats bring us back to reality and begins speaking directly about the urn. The most debated line of the poem is "Truth is beauty, beauty truth". As said by King in his criticism "The poem makes claims about the value and uses of art (and poetry) as represented by the urn, in contrast to other kinds of truth. " This can be interpreted as Keats showing that the beauty of art is true, because it will never change, which is why the poem often eludes to eternal love and how the lives portrayed on the piece of artwork are timelessly beautiful and will be enjoyed for years to come.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know"
The final two lines of the poem are a confusing puzzle for many critics. There are many interpretations of the phrase, including that the urn's beauty, as art, is
valuable to humans
because it represents permanent beauty. The lines may also be interpreted to mean that the urn "tells" its observers that humans
need not understand the great, mysterious "truths" about the human mind and body
, but only need to
witness beauty to feel enlightened