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Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats

Analysis

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a poem by Keats is known as the third of the five great odes written in 1819. This writing has two of Keats' most referenced and discussed lines: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Even though they are two of the most famous lines, T.S. Eliot called them a blight upon an otherwise wonderful poem. As well, it is disputed amongst scholars to whom the last thirteen lines are addressed.

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a five stanza poem with ten lines each for a total of 54 lines. Each stanza contains the rhyme scheme ABABCDEDCE. This poem is written in iambic pentameter.

Poem

Ode on a Grecian Urn
By 

Thou still unravished bride of quietness!
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flow'ry 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?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
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,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoyed,
For ever panting and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Next: Ode on Melancholy
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Nationality
English

Literary Movement
Romanticism, 18th Century

Subjects
Ode, Beauty, Truth