Dr. Doris Davis
March 3, 2013
An Explication of “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
“Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a poem by John Keats, written in 1819 and published in 1820 in Hayden’s Annals of Fine Art. As the title states, the poem is an ode, a lyric poem characterized by lofty words, elaborate style, and expressive emotion. The poet achieves this style with use of figurative language, imagery, and a personification of the urn. “Ode on a Grecian Urn” keeps to the standard stanza structure of an ode, but the rhyme-scheme varies in each stanza’s last three lines. Each line has 10 syllables and consists of alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. This type of meter is called iambic pentameter and lends to the songlike quality of the verse. Verses in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” consist of 10 lines each, and separate into a two-part rhyming pattern. In the final three lines of every verse, the rhyming pattern changes. The initial lines of every verse adheres to an ABABCDE rhyme pattern, but the last three lines of CDE sounds abandon the mandate. In each stanza, the end-rhyme varies in the seventh through the tenth lines. In the first and fifth verses, rhyme forms from DCE; in the second stanza, from CED; and in the third and fourth stanzas, from CDE. The central theme of the poem is that beauty and truth are equal. In "Ode on a Grecian Urn," the speaker engages in a conversation with an illusory vase. Speaking to the vase, the poet speculates about the pictures on the urn. He wonders about the legends they depict. He examines the scenes and questions what their stories could mean. All the scenes portray the human emotion of desire. Nevertheless, beauty becomes the general topic of the poem. The scenes symbolize enduring beauty since time has frozen the figures in place. The poet mentions that the scenery never changes, and the figures as "winning near the goal" (18). One can envision the carved bodies racing around the vessel, but not...
Cited: Keats, John. “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York:
W. W. Norton and Company, 2012. Print.
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