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Analysis Of Ode To A Grecian Urn By John Keats

Poet's Background, Style And Language:
He was an English poet born in London in 1795. He first went into Medicine but later on turned a poet at age 21, he died in 1891.
It is a poem of five stanzas of equal length of ten lines each with a partial rhyming scheme. It is both objective and descriptive. The language is a bit complex especially with the use of words like Sylvan, Tempe, Arcady which denote places and Old English words like canst, loth, thou, thy, ye, hast, doth, sayst which situate the time of the poem for us.

Summary of the poem:
The poet here praises what he calls a Grecian Urn which, according to him, can tell the history of humans, and deities through the pictures on it. He, therefore, praises all the pictures on the Urn as more beautiful and enduring than anything mortal.
In this wise, he tells the Bold Lover on the Urn in respect of his woman who he can never kiss
"do not grieve
she can not fade, though thou hast not thy bliss
For ever will thou love and she be fair"

With the above in mind, the poet also addresses and sees advantages in these inanimate pictures: boughs, melodist etc. To him, these are better than human life, struggles and love that are ephemeral and end leaving.
"A burning forehead, and a parching tongue"
Finally, he sees the Urn as everlasting in its beauty and longevity while human beauty and life are short and filled with woes.

Themes Of Ode To A Grecian Urn:
(1) Transiency of human life and actions compared to permanency of art and art-related objects.
(2) Beauty lasts longer than love as represented in the Urn.

Keats' major pre-occupation in this poem is the everlasting beauty that is inherent in a Grecian Urn which is a Greek vase with painted pictures as compared to human beauty which fades within a short time.
According to Keats, this urn can tell human history as it
"canst thus express
A flowery tales more sweetly than our rhyme"
It does not matter whether the story is of mortals or the gods,
The Urn has seen it all and has the pictures on it for verification.
To the poet, though the pictures on the Urn are inanimate, they enjoy everlasting beauty and longevity as never
"can those trees be bare
happy melodist unwearied
For ever piping songs for ever new"
For him, human struggles are temporary as all breathing human passion leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed. A burning forehead and a parching tongue and even town where humans once lived
"will silent be and not a soul to tell
why thou art desolate."
If hu
man beauty and love will therefore last, they should be put on and in the Urn which though a ceramic will stay alive longer than mortal life.

Poetic Devices In Ode To A Grecian Urn:
(i) Metaphor in line 1 to 3. The Urn is compared to a bride who, while unspoiled and unpossessed. Remains for ever adorable and beautiful. The Urn is also seen as undemanding in speech and not easily affected by the destructive forces of time i.e. It can endure for a long time. It is also compared to a historian who can tell stories of generations gone.

(ii) Symbolism in line 5 to 10, the above portray all the struggles of man. While line 8 talks of humans line 9 is of struggles and line 10 is of songs. "Thou silent form" stands for the Urn which is inanimate and therefore does not converse. "When old age shall this generation waste" is a representation of the decimation death wroughts on humans.

(iii) Rhetorical Questions in line 5-10, line 31-40

(iv) Alliterations are "be base"(line 16) "though thou hast not thy"(line 19) "to tell"(line 39) "marble men and maiden"(line 42)

(v) Repetition "Bold Lovers, never, never canst thou kiss"(line 17) "Ah, happy, happy love! More happy, happy love"(line 25)

(vi) Onomatopoeia is "Leadst thou that heifer lowing at the skies"(line 38)

(vii) Apostrophes are "And, little town, thy streets for evermore"(line 38) This refers to a place where humans must have lived once "Thou silent form"(line 44) This is in reference to the Urn.´

(viii) Personifications are in line 44-46 "Thou, silent form! Dost tease us out of thought... When old age shall this generation waste"

Questions To Answer On Ode To A Grecian Urn:
(1) With reference to the poem, Ode To A Grecian Urn, which can jostle with immortality-human beauty or art beauty?
(2) "Human life and love are transient". Explain this statement with the aid of the poem, Ode To A Grecian Urn.
(3) "Beauty can last longer than love". Explain your opinion of this statement in reference to the poem Ode To A Grecian Urn.

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Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings soaring high)
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