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Write a detailed Critical analysis of “Ode on a Grecian urn”

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Introduction

Write a detailed Critical analysis of "Ode on a Grecian urn" 1 Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness, Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, Sylvan historian, who canst thus express A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fring'd 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? The poet speaks of two qualities of the urn. As an "unravished bride" it is a perfect object, unmarked by the passage of time. As a "sylvan historian" it provides a record of a distant culture. The poet seems to ask the urn who or what are the figures carved on its sides. The questions suggest that the scene depicts maidens running from "men or gods" to the accompaniment of music. It is a Dionysian (Dionysius: the god of wine and revelry) scene that represents the wild, uninhibited celebrations of the god of wine and fertility. This first stanza sets the pattern of paradoxes that runs throughout the poem. ...read more.

Middle

He prefers to imagine it because music actually heard is never so perfect or ideal. Similarly, in the figure of a youth about to kiss a maiden, the anticipated kiss is better than either the reality or the maiden; as a work of art, the moment cannot grow old or the maid unkissable. Art has the advantage over reality of being perfect and unchangeable. At the same time he shows yet another paradox as he stresses the figure's limitations caused by their intransigence. "Progress implies change, and the urn is beyond change. Such are the limitations of the ideal world". Stanza three is an expression of pure joy on pondering the urn's scenes. The word happy is repeated six times. The crescendo ends when he comes to the realisation that the lovers shown on the urn are in fact "far above...all breathing human passion" which cannot be so satisfying or so lasting, as he invokes love itself. The imagination is grounded by the word "human", and his link with these figures is severed as he concentrates on the limitations of human love. 4 Who are these coming to the sacrifice? ...read more.

Conclusion

The urn will continue to bring that message to generations in the future. The truest thing, because it is perfect and unchanging, is a thing of beauty, a work of art like the urn. Truth is what does not decay, nor does it feel despair but only happiness. The Ode on a Grecian Urn squarely confronts the truth that art is not "natural," like leaves on a tree, but artificial. The sculptor must chisel the stone, a medium external to himself and recalcitrant. In restricting itself to one sense, the Urn resembles Nightingale, but in the Urn the sense is sight, not hearing. The Urn suppresses hearing, as the Ode to a Nightingale had suppressed sight (and as both suppress the "lower senses" of touch and taste). If Nightingale is an experiment in thinking about art in terms of pure, "natural," music prolonged in time, the Urn is an experiment in thinking about art in terms of pure, "artificial," representational visuality. The poem had begun with a comparison of the urn with rhyme - to the disadvantage of rhyme. The urn's whole and simultaneous visual art, where everything can be present at once, seemed to Keats, fresh from his disillusion with the nightingale, sweeter than a temporarily experienced art like music or poetry. ...read more.

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