John Keats: Ode on a Grecian Urn
Ode on a Grecian Urn is one of the most emblematic poems of the English Romanticism written by John Keats. The urn acts as a time machine which guides the poetic persona into the antique Greek culture, which faded into oblivion and obscurity throughout the centuries. However this urn still captures the essence of this ancient yet golden age.
John Keats is one of the most celebrated English romantic poets. He is often called as the Poet of Beauty, because of his very passionate and emotional writing style. The detailed and neat images are very typical of his work, it helps the reader to get more involved in the world of the poem. He wrote a few other ...view middle of the document...
The beauty of ancient culture is also a very determining part of the poem. Many known patterns appear. The harmony between man and nature is one of the most desirable advantages of the Greek culture. The reason for this is that Keats lived during the time of the industrial revolution, which made a huge gap between nature and man, the simpleness of the nature disappeared. Obviously this is just an idealized notion and image, but it was a peculiarity of the English romantics that they always tried to find a getaway from the industrial society back to nature, where they could create.
The basic starting-point of the poem is that the poetic persona starts talking to an urn observes the drawings on it and thereby the story evolves in front of us. The poetic persona is breaking the dead silence, in which the urn is left untouched: ''Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,'' and is exposed to the progress of time, as if it were its child: ''Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,''. Then the harmony of man and nature appears at the first time in the poem. A Sylvan man is a dweller of the forest, according to the Greek mythology. By the expression ''Sylvan historian'', Keats wants to suggest that this man is not only a man of knowledge, but a man of nature, he symbolises the perfect coexistence and symbiosis of man and nature. Keats also lays emphasis on the fact that this man is able to be better, than him: ''who canst thus express A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:''. It seems like Keats acknowledges that the urn is not only better than him, but it's even better than poetry itself.
Then Keats addresses a couple of questions in relation with the urn, it seems like he does not really know what is on the urn, what happens there. He starts making guesses about the event portrayed on the urn. He cannot decide, whether the people on it are real humans or Gods: ''Of deities or mortals, or of both,''. He does not have a clue about the location either: ''In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?''. The chain of questions can refer to two things. One reason can be that the poet does not really know what is on the urn, words simply cannot tell the past, it cannot be expressed by words: ''What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape...''. Keats drops another hint by the word ''legend''. Legend is a kind of story that often contains unbelievable elements and has something to do with supernaturality, but still we want to hear it again and again and we want to believe it, as if it were true. The other reason for the questions can be to make us engaged in the poem and thereby in the urn's world, so the questions are basically addressed to the reader, and Keats entrusts the visualization of the urn's world to our imagination.
Actually the first stanza demonstrates a typical Greek moment, a very idealized picture of a huge celebration full of happiness: ''What wild ecstasy?''; ''What maidens loath?''. A pattern of the archaic Greek culture appears...