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Ode On A Grecian Urn Analysis

Author: Poetry of John Keats Type: Poetry Views: 2394

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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-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape

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?

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

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!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed

Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;

And, happy melodist, unwearied,

For ever piping songs for ever new;

More happy love! more happy, happy love!

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.

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,

Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,

Is emptied of this 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.

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!

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."


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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I think the final lines "Beauty is truth, Truth Beauty" means that since beauty is no doubt relative to each individual (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) then so too is truth, personal truth that is. Keats recognises the signidicance of subjectivism. For the external world is purely what our imagination and mind percieves.

| Posted on 2009-10-12 | by a guest

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This poem is quite complex as it has a definite lireral and inferred meaning. Basiclly the persona descibes a Urn that he/she has seen (apparently Keats saw it in the British museum) and etched upon it is a joyous pleasuable scene which evokes such pleasure and happiness in the person he/she is lifted from his/her own troubles in life. Keats experienced the death of his mother, father and brother at the hands of tb, and he himself was already dying from the dreadful condition. This could possibly explain the allusions to immortality and mortality in the text. While he adores the urn for what it portrays as art, he realises that the picture will live on forever, its powerful emotions and feelings will not die and cannot be quashed. However here the persona (we can infer that it is keats but this is never explicity stated) recognises his/her own inevitable death and mortality. The solace and uplifting experiences of the persona, come crashing down as he is returned to reality. However this time he/she is further in a state of dejection as it dawns upon him that in his/her miserable life such joyous emotions are forever barred to him/her.
The urn is the perfect paradoxial symbol. While it portrays ravishing scenes of delight and hedonism, the sole function of the vase is to house the dead. Further more (as the persona realises) the images of the urn are dead and timless, it is a 'cold pastoral' which mocks humanity. The persona finds that he/she is mocked by the urn which spurs on uplifting emotions, feelings which the persona forever will feel disconnected to.
In addition this poem as a series of binary oppositions which add to the overal meaning and theme of the tale. These ionclude art v life- the glorified art of the urn seems to eclipse the real joy of life, immortality v mortality, life v death, reality v imaginary- and a series of other conflicts.
As a quick note the final 2 lines of the poem have caused much controversy as to what they actually mean. Some consider that these final lines ruin the meaning of the poem, however I disagree- why would Keats write these into the poem if they didn't express some valuable message?
what do you think it means??

| Posted on 2009-07-31 | by a guest

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