John Keats Grecian Urn / Nightingale

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“Poems are successful because poets are expert wordsmiths, every bit as fastidious as sculptors and painters.” To what extent do you believe this view?

John Keats incorporates a strong use of static imagery in order to construct the ideas and themes held within his poetry. The use of inanimate objects in his poetry sculptures Keats’s idealistic concept of permanence or immortality. The poems Ode on a Grecian Urn and Ode to a Nightingale are both examples of Keats’s work where static imagery emulates Keats’s concepts on life.

In Ode on a Grecian Urn Keats depicts figures on an ancient urn, closely examining a piper and his fair love beneath a tree. Through the use of static imagery he notes that the figures are exempt from time as they are in a permanently frozen state. This attracts Keats because they are never affected by aging or death. They are forever young; bonded to the urn and each other. The woman’s beauty will never fade, nor will the pipers love for her. ‘Forever wilt thou love and she be fair’.

Keats also feels that the couple’s love is far more superior than that of mortals. Mortals can base relationships on sexual passion and when it is appeased, they have nothing left except for a ‘parching tongue’ and a ‘burning forehead’. The figures on the Urn however, can ‘never kiss’ so their passion can remain for eternity.

In relation to Grecian Urn is Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale, another poem portraying the ideals of immortality. In this ode the tragedy of old age is set against the eternal renewal of the nightingale’s call. Through the use of imagery Keats contrasts the mortality of men with the immortality of the bird’s song. ‘The voice I hear this passing night was heard in ancient days by emperor and clown’. The nightingale’s song is music without record, existing only in a perpetual present.

This reflects upon Keats’s concept of permanence. He wants to remain throughout time forever unchanged like the nightingale’s song. Yet in this...
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