Analysis of Ode on a Grecian Urn Essay

August 23, 2017 General Studies

Keats’ ode could be approached from two positions – a actual and a nonliteral 1. Equally long as the verse form belongs to a manner of composing known as ekphrasis ( poesy that concerns itself with the ocular humanistic disciplines ) . and the talker describes several scenes he observes on the urn. we can merely follow his oculus. In making so. we could state that the terminal of the first stanza introduces us to a figure of immature work forces and adult females involved in a scene of sexual passion: “What mad chase? What battle to get away? ” Stanza II and III offer a pronounced contrast to this ambiance of intense desire.

The talker depicts here a scene of romantic wooing ( a immature adult male shrieking vocals to his beloved ) . The enticements of the flesh are suppressed and the relationship has a Platonic character: ”Bold Lover. ne’er. ne’er canst thou kiss…” Importantly. the talker devotes two stanzas to this scene. which could function as grounds that it is of cardinal importance to him. In stanza IV the ritualistic scene of a heathen forfeit is depicted. Stanza V. most likely. takes us back to the first scene of passion. The talker refers to “men and maidens” once more and we could presume that “the trodden weed” is an image meant to remind us of the “mad pursuit” .

So we could claim that the verse form comes full circle and really repeats the round signifier of the urn. Equally far as the nonliteral position is concerned. it is first of import to observe that the urn bears two different individualities: historical and aesthetic. In other words. it is both an object that can supply some cognition about the yesteryear and a work of art which should be appreciated for its beauty merely. If approached as a historical object. the urn will talk about peculiar minutes in clip ; if approached as a work of art. it will talk about infinity.

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Throughout the verse form. the talker is divided between these two individualities and merely in the concluding stanza does he pull off to accomplish some sort of synthesis between them. In other words. the verse form could be read as stand foring the dramatic struggle in the speaker’s head between the desire to cognize the facts and the realisation that beauty is more cardinal than factual cognition. At the really beginning of the ode the reader is confronted with a paradox. The urn is referred to as a “historian” but at the same clip its cardinal properties are said to be “quietness” and “silence” .

A historiographer who refuses to talk seems to be a contradiction in footings. The paradox begins to be resolved with the consciousness that that this “sylvan historian” has a “flowery tale” . a “leaf-fringed legend” ( “leaf-fringed” besides literally refers to the periphery of foliages depicted on the urn. see picture above ) to state. In other words. the realisation that the urn speaks through its beauty the manner Nature speaks to us begins to take form in the speaker’s head. However. he is non. as it were. ready for this disclosure and the 2nd portion of the stanza presents his frenetic compulsion with factual cognition.

The series of syntactically indistinguishable inquiries. and the really repeat of the pronoun “what” . reveals an overpowering desire to larn about the specific fortunes of a peculiar historical scene. What besides reveals this aspiration is the mention to geographical locations ( “In Tempe or the dales of Arcady” ) every bit good as the repeat of “or” . which tells us that the talker wants to travel beyond the uncertainness of alternate and get a dependable cognition of what truly happened. Importantly. the inquiries lack predicates. which lends them a staccato beat.

This conveys both the strength of the speaker’s uncertainness and the intense passion of the “mad pursuit” depicted on the urn. The opening line of the 2nd stanza presents the reader with a philosophical penetration. After the feverish series of inquiries refering historical fact. the talker seems to hold found the right words to give form to the decision that the urn has a more cardinal message to pass on to its modern perceiver. The message lies beyond the physical and that’s why it can non be expressed in the signifier of words or sounds.

It is non a message addressed to “the animal ear” ; the urn “pipe [ s ] to the spirit ditties of no tone. ” The scene of Platonic love seems to be in harmoniousness with this realisation. What matters for the immature lover is non the consummation of his passion but his love’s infinity every bit good as the ageless beauty of his beloved ( “For of all time wilt thou love and she be just! ” ) . In other words. the transcendency of the physical in the immature lovers’ relationship opens the speaker’s eyes to the more indispensable. aesthetic individuality of the urn.

Actually. in stanza III the talker seems to be in a province of head close to ecstasy. All inquiries are now gone and what remains is the preparedness to see a cardinal integrity with a beautiful object. The talker is. as it were. at a loss for words. The whole stanza centres around the obsessional repeat of a mantra: “More happy love! More happy. happy love! ” This reveals the poet’s trouble in talking about the indefinable beauty of the urn every bit good as about his empathy with it.

However. at the terminal of the stanza he manages to determine a coherent statement about the value of the urn. It presents us with an ageless ideal universe lying beyond our earthly passions. which leave us agony: “A firing brow and a parching lingua. ” Somewhat surprisingly. in stanza IV the talker lurches back to the historical pole. The ritualistic inscrutability of the forfeit revives his desire to larn more about the peculiar fortunes environing the event.

The rhetoric of the first stanza returns: the inquiries. the repeat of “or” . the mention to particular sites. The stanza terminals in a instead pessimistic note. The fact that the nexus between past and nowadays has been irrevocably lost fills the speaker’s bosom with letdown: And. small town. thy streets for evermore Will soundless be ; and non a psyche to state Why thou art desolate. can e’er return. In an disconnected passage. letdown recedes and makes room for elation in the gap line of the concluding stanza. The grave tone of the apostrophe ( “O Attic form!

Fair attitude! ” ) prepares the synthesis that the talker is now able to accomplish. The urn is here referred to as a “cold pastoral” . In other words. it combines in a dialectical integrity the coldness of a historiographer who refuses to talk and the heat of the narrative of beauty and love that it will transport through the ages. It seems. nevertheless. that one of these poles prevails in the speaker’s relationship with the urn. The axiomatic shutting lines of the verse form suggest that factual cognition does non give humanity entree to truth. The lone truth that affairs is beauty.


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