Ode on a Grecian Urn John Keats
John Keats is one of the greatest of the Romantic poets in English literature. He died at the age of twenty six of tuberculosis. The Grecian Urn symbolizes Art. The poet teaches us through the Grecian Urn that art is immortal and the Beauty is Truth, and Truth Beauty. The poem is addressed to the Grecian Urn and the poet praises lavishly the beauty of the vase. He says that the Grecian Urn is the “unravished bride of quietness. It is the foster child of silence and Time. Time is the great destroyer of everything in the world, but has preserved the Grecian Urn’s beauty. This is why the poet calls the Urn the foster child of Time. It is very interesting to note that the urn which contains the human ashes is changed by the poet into the symbol of immortality and eternal beauty.
The charming village life of
on the Vase tells us a story more sweetly than any poem written by human
beings. The poet says that it is a “leaf-fringed legend”. He imagines that the
story happened in the beautiful valleys of Tempe
or Arcady in Greece.
There are three rustic scenes engraved on the Grecian Urn. Young and beautiful
maidens are running, musicians are playing on musical instruments and singing beautiful
songs and a priest is leading a heifer to the altar of sacrifice. A little town
by river or seashore or mountain side with citadel is emptied of its people.
They might have gone to the altar to see the sacrifice of the holy heifer by
Now the poet describes the three pastoral scenes one by one. A young and handsome musician is playing on pipes and other musical instruments and also singing songs. He is standing under green trees. The poet cannot hear the music. So he says “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter” because the silent music enters poet’s soul and spirit. The poet says that the young musician is singing for ever and the trees always enjoy spring season. Their leaves are neither dropped nor the young man, ever becomes old.
The second scene is about a bold lover trying to kiss his lady love. He cannot kiss her, but he is not sad because she ever young and beautiful, standing beside him. They enjoy life and are ever happier than human beings in reality. Thus the poet makes a contrast between the mortal human life and the immortality of Art. In real life every individual is suffering from misery, poverty, illness and sorrow. Happiness comes to them once in a blue moon like a guest. Finally they die in pain and agony.
Finally the poet speaks about the third scene engraved on the Grecian Urn. A mysterious priest is leading a heifer to an altar in the jungle. The young holy cow is decorated with silk garlands. Near by there is a little town built on the river side or sea shore or a mountain side. But the town is emptied of its residents. All the people have gone to see the sacrifice. They will never come back to the town.
In concluding the poem, Keats tells the Grecian Urn (Attic shape) that the Urn silently laughs at all human beings because human beings are short lived and mortals. They suffer hunger, pain poverty illness and sorrow. The Grecian Urn is the friend of us and tells us silently “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”. This is John Keats’ philosophy of beauty. Beauty and Truth are the two sides of a coin. They are identical. Art immortalizes beauty, which brings pleasure to man and consoles the spirit of man.