Ode on a grecian urn” John Keats h elpful background information




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ODE ON A GRECIAN URN”

John Keats


Helpful background information:


Inspirations

The painting of Grecian urns can be traced back to the Greek city of Corinth in the seventh century B.C. There, painters began to cover vases with black silhouetted shapes, often the forms of animals. As the style spread to Athens, it developed to include narrative scenes based on Greek mythology. The look of an Athenian vase—black figures on a red clay background—became famous.


In Keats’ day, archeological excavations in the Mediterranean region produced many examples of the form, creating interest throughout Europe in all things classical. His poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” may have been inspired by just such an urn.


Odes

An ode is ______________________________________________ that is elevated in tone and style. Some odes ___________________________ a person, an event, or even a power; others are more _______________________________________. Almost all involve _______________________, addressing an absent person or a personified animal, an inanimate object, or an idea. The ode originated in ancient _________________ as a dramatic song of celebration accompanied by dance.


Questions:

  1. What metaphors does the speaker use to describe the urn in lines 1-3?




  1. What do the metaphors reveal about the speaker’s view of the urn?




  1. Why might an “unheard melody” be sweeter than a heard melody? (see lines 11-12)




  1. What people and things does the speaker address in the second and third stanzas? Why does the speaker envy them?




  1. What message does the poem seem go give about truth and beauty?




  1. How might an urn that is like the one described by the speaker be a “friend to man”?



7. How does this poem reflect qualities of Romanticism?


THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,

 

  Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,

 

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

 

  A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

 

What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape

         5

  Of deities or mortals, or of both,

 

    In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

 

  What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

 

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

 

    What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

  10

 




Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

 

  Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

 

Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,

 

  Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:

 

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave

  15

  Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;

 

    Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,

 

Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;

 

    She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

 

  For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

  20

 




Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed

 

  Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;

 

And, happy melodist, unwearièd,

 

  For ever piping songs for ever new;

 

More happy love! more happy, happy love!

  25

  For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,

 

    For ever panting, and for ever young;

 

All breathing human passion far above,

 

  That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,

 

    A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

  30

 




Who are these coming to the sacrifice?

 

  To what green altar, O mysterious priest,

 

Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,

 

  And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?

 

What little town by river or sea-shore,

  35

  Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,

 

    Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?

 

And, little town, thy streets for evermore

 

  Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell

 

    Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

  40

 




O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede

 

  Of marble men and maidens overwrought,

 

With forest branches and the trodden weed;

 

  Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought

 

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

  45

  When old age shall this generation waste,

 

    Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

 

  Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,

 

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

 

    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

  50




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