Ode on a Grecian Urn vs. Musee de Beaux Arts: Comparative Analysis of Art in Poetry

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Baker College of Flint|
Art in Poetry Keats and Auden|
Compare “Ode on a Grecian Urn” to “Musee de Beaux Arts”| |
Kimberly M. Sanger|

Lit 401A
Survey of British Literature

Compare how Keats uses art to discuss a theme in Ode to a Grecian Urn with how Auden does so in Musee des Beaux Arts|

For my final paper I have chosen to write about how John Keats and W. H. Auden address art in their poems “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Musee de Beaux Arts”. Both of these great authors address the common theme of art in their poems, but each of them choose different ways to reflect on this subject. These different ways of addressing this theme are partly because of their different styles of poetry. Keats is a Romantic poet, while Auden is more of the modern style. In these two poems we can see the marked differences between these two writing styles. We can also see the similarities in the message that these authors are trying to get across. This common message is one of the permanence of art in an ever changing world.

First let’s take a minute to examine the two different styles of literature that these men used in the pieces. These poems were written in two distinct methods, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” was written in the Romantic style, and “Musee des Beaux Arts” was written in the modern style. These two ways of writing are very different both in style, themes, and methods. While the earlier style of romanticism was more about a reflection of man in nature and the world around him, the modern style is more of a true telling of what is happening in the poets mind. The modern style may not be as flowery, or flattering as romanticism, but it is the truth as the poet sees it. Some authors have been both Romantic and Modern poets but most of the poets that we have studied in this class are from one style or the other. Romantic poetry is a style that was marked by a fascination with the power of the interior of humans and the grand nature of human faculties. (Sanger, 2013) I think one of the best definitions of this poetic era comes from romantic poet William Wordsworth who said “All poetry is spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings reflected upon in leisure” (Sanger, 2013) . Before the Romantic period, poetry’s purpose was to imitate nature or to create a Mimesis. (Greenblatt, 2006) The purpose of the written word was to record tradition, and there were rules of format that had to be followed. In the Romantic period however, it was the author who created nature and poetry was more spontaneous. There were no rules anymore. Poets were now lead by the heart and not the head. (Sanger, 2013) The Romantic period’s key idea was that the world is created by us when we experience it. This was an idea introduced by the philosopher Emmanuel Cant. Romantic poet Percy Shelly echoed this thought when he said “all things exist as they are perceived.” (Sanger, 2013) Another great idea of this period was that if two ideas contradicted each other that it didn’t necessarily mean that they both weren’t true. That was the great thing about this age. It was all about the experience put down on paper, which is very similar to Modern poetry in that way. It was the way that they went about it that made these two styles so very different.

The Modern period of literature was marked by a more fluid style. The poems in this period were filled by a stream of consciousness and were more experimental in nature. The rules of rhyme and meter that were more popular in the Romanic period and were required in the eras before that were thrown out of the window for the most part. Modern poets were not as concerned with nature as the Romantic poets who went before them. The modernists were more focused on individual experience, and were very interested in experimentation with language and forms of literature. As modern poet W. H. Auden himself said, “Poetry is not magic, but a form of...
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