Literature

Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats Summary and Analysis

Ode On a Grecian Urn by John Keats was written in the spring of 1819. Here is the summary and analysis of Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats. The Ode is thoroughly inspired by Hellenism. Keats worshipped beauty as Greeks.

Analysis and Summary of Ode on a Grecian Urn:

Stanza 1:

Keats sees a Grecian Urn and there are different types of figures on it. Keats stares at the Grecian Urn and thinks deeply about its long duration on earth (probably for centuries). The Urn stands silent through the slow march of time/ The poet sees the scene depicted on the Urn and feels the charm of the pastoral story. The Urn seems to him as the historical piece of pastoral life. It seems to the poet that the sculptures on it can express a story of rural life better tha poetry.

He tries to inquire about the things that are depicted on it. He contemplates it and asks different questions to himself. What kind of legends are depicted on this Urn? Is it a story of the gods who visit the valley of Temple in Thessaly? Is it a story of men who lead a pastoral life in the Peloponnesian Arcady? He is surprised by these figures of men and maiden, of pipers and trees represented on the urn and feels their abandoned joy.

Stanza 2:

In the second stanza of Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats sees the figures of a piper playing on his instrument on Grecian Urn. He cannot hear the music of the piper as it is not real, but he can imagine it. Pleasures of the senses are great but the pleasure of the imagination is still greater. The unheard music is sweeter than the music heard by ears (in reality).

Keats affirms the power of the imagination and asks the sculptured piper to play instrumental music consistently so that the imagination can enjoy this unheard music. This unheard music is sweeter than any music that a real piper can make.

In Ode on a Grecian Urn, the poet compares the permanence of art with the transitions of human life. The figures created by him enjoy an immortal existence. The young musicians on the Grecian Urn have not to give up their music as the earthly musicians (in reality) have to. The trees on the Grecian Urn are forever green and they will never shed their leaves.

The lover on the Grecian Urn is about to kiss his lover and he will not regret that he cannot kiss his beloved. Keats console the lover on the Grecian Urn that he should not be disappointed as his lover will never grow old and his love for her will never decline.

The life on Grecian Urn is immortal unlike the life on earth. Everything including the lovers, the trees and the piper is permanent on Grecian Urn, unlike real life.

Stanza 3:

In the third stanza of Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats appreciates the permanence of Art as compared to temporary human life. In real, the loveliness and freshness of Nature starts losing but it attains permanence in art. The poet contemplates with joy that trees cannot shed their leaves on Grecian Urn and there will always be spring season.

Keats congratulates the musicians who are singing happily and lovers on Grecian Urn. The love is eternal fresh on Grecian Urn. Human passions or earthly love leaves behind a heart in sorrow and worries but sculptured love is above all early passions. Keats is in deep sorrow because of his unrequited love for Fanny Browne.

Stanza 4:

In these lines of Ode on a Grecian Urn, the poet brings before his mind the picture of a little town. This town is situated by the side of a river or on a sea-shore or surrounded by mountains which are left by its inhabitants. The inhabitants left the town in the early morning for worship.

The visible sacrificial scene is expressed but according to the poet, there is also an invisible own though it is not depicted on Urn. The poet images that these all people who have come for sacrifice must have come from a town. the town must have been emptied. The town from where these people have come is empty now and will be empty and silent forever.

The people are here for sacrifice and there will be no one who will return and tell why it was emptied. The inhabitants are engaged in a ritual of the sacrifice and forever fixed on the Urn and will never return to their town.

Stanza 5:

In the last stanza of Ode on a Grecian Urn, Keats interprets the lesson that is taught by the Urn. When the present generation who is now young will lose the freshness and energy of the youth the Urn will remain the same. The present youth is replaced by old age. The Urn will give comfort to humanity with its beauty and like a friend convey to them the great lesson.

“There is nothing real but the beautiful and nothing beautiful but the real”. In this way, the Urn will inspire humanity to seek shelter in the ideal eternity of Art. We need to know about the knowledge of identity between what is true and what is beautiful. The Urn will teach men this great lesson that “Beauty is Truth and Truth is Beauty”. On this note, Keats concludes the Ode on a Grecian Urn.

Read More about John Keats:

Important Questions and Answers on the life and works of John Keats

Summary and Analysis of Ode To Psyche by John Keats

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