Ode on a grecian urn

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John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn.

John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn.

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  • 1. Ode on A Grecian Urn John Keats
  • 2. What does Keats tell us in this poem?
  • 3. Human Life
    • Aging
    • Changes
    • Finite Love
    • Death
    • Decay
    • Desperation
  • 4.
    • ART: Eternal; Immutable; Perfect Beauty; Eternal love; Truth; Happiness.
  • 5.
    • A Work of Art is an expression of Beauty.
    • Beauty is Truth and Truth Beauty.
    • Art has an Aesthetic function.
    • Art has a moral function.
    • Art provides comfort and solace to many generations.
  • 6.
      • 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 haunt 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?
  • 7. Keats calls the urn an “unravish’d bride of quietness” because it has existed for centuries without undergoing any changes (it is “unravished”) as it sits quietly on a shelf or table. He also calls it a “foster-child of silence and time” because it is has been adopted by silence and time, parents who have conferred on the urn eternal stillness. In addition, Keats refers to the urn as a “sylvan historian” because it records a pastoral scene from long ago. (“Sylvan” refers to anything pertaining to woods or forests.) This scene tells a story (“legend”) in pictures framed with leaves (“leaf-fring’d”)–a story that the urn tells more charmingly with its images than Keats does with his pen.
  • 8. Keats speculates that the scene is set either in Tempe or Arcady. Tempe is a valley in Thessaly, Greece–between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa–that is favored by Apollo, the god of poetry and music. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vale_of_Tempe
  • 9. Arcadia has its present-day capital at Tripoli. It forms the largest prefecture on the Peloponnesian peninsula. Arcady is Arcadia, a picturesque region in the Peloponnesus (a peninsula making up the southern part of Greece). Arcadia remained a rustic, secluded area, and its inhabitants became proverbial as primitive herdsmen leading simple pastoral unsophisticated yet happy lives, to the point that Arcadia may refer to some imaginary idyllic paradise, immortalized by Virgil's Eclogues , and later by Jacopo Sannazaro in his pastoral masterpiece, Arcadia (1504)
  • 10. Keats wonders whether the images he sees represent humans or gods. And, he asks, who are the reluctant (“loath”) maidens and what is the activity taking place?
  • 11.
      • Heard melodies are sweet, but those unhear’d
      • 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!
  • 12. Ode on A Grecian Urn John Keats
  • 13.  
  • 14.
      • 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.
  • 15.
      • 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 .
  • 16.
      • 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 .
  • 17. Keats begins by addressing the urn as an “attic shape.” Attic refers to Attica, a region of east-central ancient Greece in which Athens was the chief city. Shape, of course, refers to the urn. Thus, attic shape is an urn that was crafted in ancient Attica.
  • 18. The urn is a beautiful one, poet says, adorned with “brede” (braiding, embroidery) depicting marble men and women enacting a scene in the tangle of forest tree branches and weeds. As people look upon the scene, they ponder it–as they would ponder eternity–trying so hard to grasp its meaning that they exhaust themselves of thought.
  • 19. Keats calls the scene a “cold pastoral!”–in part because it is made of cold, unchanging marble and in part, perhaps, because it frustrates him with its unfathomable mysteries, as does eternity.
  • 20. At this time in his life, Keats was suffering from tuberculosis, a disease that had killed his brother, and was no doubt much occupied with thoughts of eternity. He was also passionately in love with a young woman, Fanny Brawne, but was unable to act decisively on his feelings–even though she reciprocated his love–because he believed his lower social status and his dubious financial situation stood in the way. Consequently, he was like the cold marble of the urn–fixed and immovable.
  • 21. Keats says that when death claims him and all those of his generation, the urn will remain. And it will say to the next generation what it has said to Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” In other words, do not try to look beyond the beauty of the urn and its images, which are representations of the eternal, for no one can see into eternity. The beauty itself is enough for a human; that is the only truth that a human can fully grasp. The poem ends with an endorsement of these words, saying they make up the only axiom that any human being really needs to know.
  • 22. What roles do the following play in the poem? 1. The urn 2. The figures on the urn 3. The poet 4. The reader(s)
  • 23. References: http://englishhistory.net/keats/contents.html John Keats's sketch of the Sosibios Vase