"Ode on a Grecian Urn" Analysis

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  • Topic: John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
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  • Published : December 3, 2007
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The "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats depicts the images and stories on a Grecian urn. Keats has the reader think about the difference between changeable real life and the immortal and permanent life on the urn. Also, the reader becomes mixed between observation of the art and participation in the art.

The first stanza depicts the urn as an "unravish'd bride" and a "foster child" (1-2). These words describe the urn as unaffected by time and immortal. Keats also seems unable to distinguish between mortal and immortal, like the urn compared to real time, "Of deities or mortals, or of both?" (6).

Stanza two shows Keats's torn feelings between the mortal and immortal world. He lists the advantages of the life on an urn, "She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, / For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!" (19-20), but if you read carefully, negative words pop-up within the advantages of the immortal urn, "Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, / Though winning near the goal- yet, do not grieve;" (16-17). Keats can't choose between real life and the immortal life of the urn. Keats settles that real life will leave you only with "A burning forehead, and a perching tongue" (30).

Keats puts himself into the story of the urn in the fourth stanza. He shows the cruelty and pain of the sacrifice by comparing the sacrifice of a cow, to a "green altar" (32). This comparison shows the irony in the sacrifice because the red-blood color associated with sacrifice contrasts the green altar. Keats gets involved in the scene, and senses the pain of silence in the procession, "Will silent be; and not a soul to tell / Why thou art desolate, can e'er return" (39-40).

The fifth stanza finally comes to a conclusion about the urn. He uses the phrase "Cold Pastoral" (45) to describe the urn. This phrase could either mean a pastoral story in marble, or a cold/sad story depicted. He then goes on to say although life goes on and people get old, "Thou...
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