Ode on a Grecian Urn

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” is one of John Keats’s Five Great Odes of 1819. In this poem, Keats lyrically paints the festival scene on this Greek urn and contemplates the motives and actions of the characters depicted. While other odes of this nature give voices to these characters, Keats instead describes the characters through a series of questions, allowing the urn itself to have the last word. He adds to the form of the English ode, a lyric poem of praise to a source of inspiration, by incorporating a second voice into the lines and thus generating a dialogue between the poem's two subjects. In this way, Keats is able to meditate on the relationship between art and art’s audience and the correlation between beauty and knowledge. Keats’s signature sensual images and poignant metaphors generate both an emotional attachment to the images his words incite and a contemplative state of awe.

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