An Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats
John Keats's poem "An Ode to a Grecian Urn", is written encompassing both life and art. Keats uses a Grecian urn as a symbol of life. He refers to the Greek piece of art as being immortal, with its messages told in endless time. Walter J. Bate explains that the Sisobas Vase that Keats traced at the home of his artist friend Haydon, the Townly Vase at the British Museum, or the Borghese Vase in the Louvre, are suggested by scholars to possibly be the ones that Keats had in mind while writing his poem (510-511). Being that Keats had quite a respectable knowledge of Greek art, it is also quite possible that he had no particular vase in mind at all. Outside of that, our chief concern is the meaning of the poem itself. As author Jack Stillinger proposes, "the speaker in a romantic period begins in the real world, takes off in mental flight to visit the ideal then returns home to the real." However, because of his experiences during flight, he never returns to where he began and will be, however slight, forever changed (3).
The purpose of this paper is to primarily focus on the first stanza. In the first line of the poem, "Thou still unravished bride of quietness," (1), Keats refers to the urn as the unravished bride, or a thing of beauty, but not just simply pleasing to the eye. It is a bride of silence, or so it may seem. Later, we read that the "silent bride" had recorded annals to deliver. As Patterson explains, "he suggests its changeless ungenerative descent through the ages; it does not reproduce itself and transmits itself and it's meaning directly" (49).
As Douglas Bush points out, Keats begins with an "inanimate anonymous artifact which in itself can be called immortal" (138).
"Thou foster-child of silence and slow time" (2). Keats now refers to the urn as a foster-child. Perhaps he uses this to tell us how the urn has been adopted to tell us a story of Greek times. Or perhaps even more simply, who were its original parents? The phrase "Now he belongs to the ages," comes to mind here. The words, "slow time" seems so exact in describing the urn. After all, the urn is matter and is no more immortal then man. Time may not stand still for it; however, as with...