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Keats “If poetry come not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.” Negative capability: Keats believed that great people, especially poets, have to the ability to accept that not everything can be resolved. The truths found in the imagination access holy authority and cannot be otherwise understood. John Keats

claimed that great artists possessed what he called “Negative Capability.” Such artists were “capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” Explain how Keats’ concept of “negative capability” might be applied to a reading of Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

Keats doesn’t focus on the same subjects as the other romantic poets, like religion, ethics, morals or politics. He writes about sensations and experiencing the richness of life. Conflicts in Keats’ poetry Transient sensation/enduring art Dream/reality Joy/melancholoy Ideal/real Mortal/immortal Life/death Separation/connection Being immersed in passion/desiring to escape passion A lyric poem is a short poem with one speaker, not necessarily the poet, who expresses thought and feeling. A lyric poem stresses moments of feeling and seeks to make an impact in a brief period of time (kind of like a 3 minute song or a 15 second commercial) Ode: usually a lyric poem of moderate length, with a serious subject, elevated style, and elaborate stanza pattern. Often the Romantic poets start the ode with a meditation on something in nature, like Keats in “Ode to a Nightingale” or Shelly in “Ode to the West Wind.” The ode has three parts in the Romantic era: 1. The description of a particularized outer natural scene; 2. An extended meditation, which the scene stimulates and which may be focused on a private problem or a universal situation or both

3. The occurrence of an insight or vision, a resolution or decision, which signals a return to the scene originally described, but with a new perspective created by the intervening meditation. “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is based on a series of paradoxes and opposites: (1) the discrepancy between the urn with its frozen images and the dynamic life portrayed on the urn; (2) the human and changeable versus the immortal and permanent; (3) participation versus observation; (4) life versus art.

Ode on a Grecian Urn
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 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? The word “still” has two meanings—“as yet” and “unmoving” or “quiet.” The urn seems virginal, something not yet explored. Not a real child of silence and time, but a “foster-child,” something discarded rather than 5 cherished.

Why are the maidens “loth”? Think back to the “unravished” bride

Who are these gods and men depicted any He calls the urn an “unravish’d bride of quietness” because it has existed for centuries without undergoing on the urn? He to changes. It is a foster-child of silence and time because it has been adopted by silence and time. He wantswants to know more.


know who the “loth” maidens are and what activity is taking place.

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 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,

Oxymoron— how can this be?

There’s a contrast between the seeming negativity of the unattained and the fact that the unattained will never fade.

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