A few early critics from John Keats’s own lifetime had disdained his work, considering him an unworthy “cockney” poet. Still, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” has become, along with Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” (1819), one of the most famous and widely known poems in the English language. Readers of his time had valued Keats’s word-pictures and his evocation of the senses (especially, in “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” the sense of sight) and his subtle use of poetic language.
Keats wrote “Ode on a Grecian Urn” probably in May, 1819, around the same time that he composed “Ode to a Nightingale”; the two odes share a similar structure and a theme, that is, the shortness and fleeting nature of happiness. Of Keats’s eleven odes, five have received the most attention from critics: those known as the Great Odes or the Odes of Spring, which were written mostly in the spring of 1819.
Critics and readers admire the imagery of “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” which focuses on the symbolism of the urn itself and represents pictorial art or art in general. The figures on the urn, the poet reminds readers, will never fade or lose their moment of wild happiness and excitement, thus contrasting with the transitory human experience of unhappiness (“woe”). However, by the end of the ode, as the poet’s meditation progresses, the urn is rejected, in part, as an alternative to real life. The urn is a “friend” to humanity, a consoling factor, but not one that wants to escape the world. The general problem this poem explores, then, is the relative superiority of art, symbolized by the urn, and the reality of life.
Critics have disagreed about the meaning of the poem’s final two lines: “’Beauty is truth, truth beauty/ —that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’” Does the urn itself speak these lines as a message to the world, or is the poet making this statement? Disagreement arises out of the variation in punctuation found in the poem’s early editions—that is, should the internal quotation marks surround only “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” to reflect a speaking urn, or should the entire aphorism be placed within quotation marks to reflect a speaking poet? Some critics believe that these final lines mar the poem because they introduce an abstraction to a work of concrete imagery.
Ode on a Grecian Urn Essay
482 Words2 Pages
In “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats uses the urn as a symbolism he talks about the urn being a human being. The poet speaks of the urn designs that are process in time by the artist which the urn became a beautiful master piece of art that comes alive. The urn is a beautiful ancient object designed with fascinated pictures imprinted on the side. He brings the pictures to life as he goes into a fantasy world thinking of lovers that are frozen in time. He thinks of a relationship the lovers could have and what if they pursue their love interest. The urn would have a beautiful story to tell but the urn cannot speak so the story will never be able to be discovered.
In the second stanza, the poet makes the difference between scenery arts and…show more content…
In the third stanza, the poet is jealous of the joy the images on the urn seem to have. He thinks of the time he will pass away, and the urn will live forever frozen in time. When the fantasy world of imagination fades away the reality of life will remain the same. He then becomes depressed by his thoughts of facing reality that he had to return from the urn.
However, in stanza four, the poet takes a look at another picture that is on the side of the urn. How isolated the poet felt to give up on the goals that would never be. His pain and suffering of his imagination will never be discovered in the real world. Keats introduces himself in this stanza letting us know that no one remains frozen in time in reality. The urn images are symbolized as a physical world that can only explore the imagination. In the last stanza, the expression “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”--that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. (Keats) In beauty you see the joy that comes from the source that attracts you. The urn will remain precious forever when everything fades away the urns beauty will stand. The end of the last stanza, deal with the urn not recognizing reality. All the pain and suffering that reality goes through is not in the fantasy world.
In conclusion, the theme was not affected by the symbolism, because it sent a message of what beauty is and gave