Ode on a Grecian Urn | John Keats | Apostrophe | Keatsean Ode
John Keats, the poet of ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’

Ode on a Grecian Urn is a poem by John Ode on a Grecian Urn. The poem was published ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ in ‘Annals of the Fine Arts for 1819’. The speaker of the poem ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, describes a grecian urn which has rustic images carved upon it representing the ancient Greek lives.

Ode on a Grecian Urn was written after he was inspired from two articles written by the artist cum writer Benjamin Haydon which was published in the Examiner. Keats familiarity in writings related to elgin marbles and other ancient art also helped him pen this poem.

Ode on a Grecian Urn | John Keats | Apostrophe | Keatsean Ode
A grecian urn similar to one in the poem ‘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-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?

The poet addresses the urn as the bride of silence, a child at the same time a historian in the opening lines of the poem, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. Even though no descriptions are connected they all perform silence in common. A historian can express a beautiful tale more than any poems. The wonders what the images carved upon the urn signify.

The speaker of the poem ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ whether the images carved upon the urn โšฑ are mortals or immortals, that is, Gods who are to be worshipped or men, the worshippers. He then asks if the urns has both men and Gods carved on it. He then wonders which part of Greece ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท these Gods and men come from, the Tempe or Arcady.

The speaker then concludes the first stanza of the poem Ode on a Grecian Urn by asking if the men and women carved upon the urn are trying to escape. He asks if the images on the urn signifies a chase. The poet then notes the musical ๐ŸŽถ instruments like pipes and timbrels and the wild musical ecstasy produced by it.

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!

The poet of the poem, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ says that heard melodies ๐ŸŽถ are sweet and those unheard are sweeter as they are composed in the minds of the people. Such melodies are sweeter to not the ears but to their minds. A fair youth listens to the song sitting below the trees. Those trees will also stay green forever.

He then describes a picture carved on the urn โšฑ, the picture of a lover who is to kiss his beloved. The poet describes this moment as the best moment even if they do not share the kiss ๐Ÿ˜˜. It is the best moment as his beloved won’t leave him and his love will remain as it is in the verge of the kiss and she shall also remain young forever.

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.

The third stanza of the poem, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ begins describing the beauty of the green world that is carved upon the urn. The boughs of the trees which will never shed its leaves ๐Ÿƒ.

The melodist who composes the tune ๐ŸŽถ with his pipes and other musical instruments won’t ever get tired ๐Ÿ˜ด of composing them. They will continue to do what they are doing forever.

The speaker ๐Ÿ”Š then reveals the truth about human passions and compares it with pictures upon the urn. He says that human passions are short-lived, filled with sorrow and sufferings. On the contrary, even the images carved upon the urn are immortal. Basically he praises the immortality of art.

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.

The poet now speaks of the pastoral images upon the urn. A priest seen on the altar with a calf (heifer) ๐Ÿฎ decorated with silk and garlands. The heifer is to be sacrificed. The poet doesn’t know where the people who come to attend the sacrifice come from.

The poet asks of they come from the towns near the rivers ๐Ÿž๏ธ or mountains โ›ฐ๏ธ? He asks them the reason for the pious gathering. They will never return from this gathering and forever will stay together.

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,โ€”that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

The poet addresses the urn as the “attic shape” and “fair attitude”. The marble men and women carved upon it will stay upon the urn forever young and silent. Their silence has the power to communicate to men the message beauty is truth and truth is beautiful than anything else. The mortal humans get old while the immortal art ๐ŸŽจ has something to convey till the human race exists.

Ode on A Grecian Urn โšฑ :Structure

Ode on a Grecian Urn has five stanzas with ten lines each. Keats has implemented the figure of speech called Apostrophe, in the poem through addressing an inanimate object. The style of this ode is blended with the symmetry classical literature and asymmetry of romantic literature giving rise to the Keatsian ode.

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