ODE ON A GRECIAN URN
Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a balance between the flux of human experience and the fixity of art, the contrast between enduring art and ephemeral art, and an equation between realism and aestheticism. The indefinite article in the poem refers to how Keats did not refer to any single work of Greek art; but to art in general. The origin of the poem can be traced to various sources: a marble vase in Louvre, another one in Louvr depicting a revelry scene, the famous Eligin marbles in the British museum and another one belonging to Lord Holland
Keats addresses the urn as an inviolate bride and a child who is fostered by Time, the otherwise universal enemy. Keats conveys to us the great age and silent repose of the urn terming it as ‘Sylvan historian’, who does not relate mere factual information but projects a “creative perception into reality”. The first stanza functions as an expository part and enumerates in a series of questions ideas that are to be amplified later. The second and third stanzas reveal the triumph of art over life. The lovers love without tiring and they play melodies unheard, that remain sweeter to comprehend.
The beauty of maidens and the greenery of the trees shall never fade away. If the first scene depicts Dionysian revelry, the second signifies Appolonian order. It potrays the serene scene of a sacrificial ritual. If the first portrays individual yearning, the second depicts communal activity. The last Stanza brings us to the urn itself as an object: “attic shape” and “cold pastoral”. The urn itself is a ‘silent form’ and it speaks not by means of statement but understatement. It is an enigma and will recite history to generations to come. The final statement:” Beauty is truth, Truth beauty” has come in for much criticism. Bridges has praised their artistic excellence. To T.S.Eliot, ”they are a serious blemish on a otherwise beautiful poem.” I.A.Richards calls it “a pseudo-statement.” Garrod also feels that the statement is an intrusion upon the poem.