Character Analysis in Ode on a Grecian Urn

Text of the Poem 5
"When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain..."   (Text of the Poem)

Although it’s inferred metaphorically earlier in the poem, this is the first instance the narrator just states that humans die, but the urn will live on. This represents the narrator’s dwindling romantic vision of what it means to be an eternal piece of art, perhaps suggesting the narrator prefers to be mortal, learning a lesson through his struggle with the urn.

"Attic shape..."   (Text of the Poem)

Attic is a historical region of Greece that includes Athens. This line tells the reader where the urn was crafted, but more importantly comes in direct contrast with the tone of the first stanza when the narrator embellished the urn as a bride. Now the urn is nothing more than a “shape,” implying the narrator’s fading amazement with it.

"Sylvan historian..."   (Text of the Poem)

Keats establishes the urn as a character when he names it "Sylvan historian." Because the urn has been around so long and seen so many people come and go, its timelessness and resilience makes it an active part of history. "Sylvan historian" is a way of saying the urn is a mythical deity who has become wise from so many years on earth.

"never canst thou kiss..."   (Text of the Poem)

Keats represents the Bold Lover as a figure frozen in time, doomed by virtue of being painted to hold the same position (as wanting to but never being able to kiss his lover). The speaker laments this fact, bringing the reader to a deeper understanding of both the scene and the speaker's feelings.

"in midst of other woe..."   (Text of the Poem)

Keats implies that this eternal state of lifelessness is a kind of "woe" or sorrow that the urn and its figures suffer. In this, the speaker departs from his previous glorification of the urn to make an insightful comment about the tragedy of immortality.