This is one of the most discussed of Keats’s odes because of the ambiguity of the closing lines. To determine their meaning, however, one must consider the whole poem.
The poet begins by addressing the urn, a large sculpted vessels that is unlike any real urn. Keats made up the figure on the urn from a variety of sources among Greek works of art.
STANZA 1. 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 godes” to the accompaniment of music. It is a Dionysian scene that represent the wild, uninhibited celebrations of the god of wine and fertility.
STANZA 2. In the second stanza the poet imagines what music is being played in the scene. He prefers to imagine it because music actually heard is never so pefect 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 nor the maid unkissable. Art has the advantage over reality of being perfect and unchangeable.
STANZA 3. This stanza is an expression of pure joy on pondering the urn’s scenes. The word happy is repeated six times. The happiness is then contrasted with “breathing human passion,” which cannot be so satisfying or so lasting.
Explication: The Road Not Taken "The Road Not Taken" is a poem written by Robert Frost. In his poem Frost describes a traveler's choice between two roads and how this choice effects his life later. In the first stanza the poet gives the reader the image of 2 paths in the woods. This represents a choice. The poet has a tone of sorrow when he writes .".. and sorry I could not travel both... ." the ...
STANZA 4. Here the poet describes another scene, as if the urn has been turned to reveal a different surface. Here there is a procession; a priest is leading a cow to some ritual sacrifice. The poet imagines that the little town from whence the people in the procession came is empty because all the folk have joined the procession. Thus, the poet’s imagination goes byond what the work of art represents ansd sees what it merely suggests.
STANZA 5. In the final stanza the poet reviews the whole urn and recapitualtes his perceptions. Looking at the urn, he has been “teased” out of thought. As when one tries to imagine eternity one gets to a point beyond which the mind seems unable to go. The poet calls the urn a friend, one who brings a message about truth and beauty and their sameness to the many generations since it was created. The urn will continue to bring that message to genreations 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.
We must presume, since Keats went on after writing the Ode to a Nightingale to write Ode on a Grecian Urn (as near a twin to the earlier ode as one poem can be to another), that his experimetns in analyzing, distinguishing, and objectifying his thoughts and feelings about creation, expression, audience, sensation, thought, beauty, truth, and the fine arts were still in some way unsatisfactory to him. And yet he was not ready to examine “art” in some general way: abandoing nonrepresentational “natural” music as his metaphor, he took as metaphor another special case, the one (because of the Elgin marbles) most in the public eye, the case of sculpture. He has, we realize, given in and joined his phantoms of Indolence on their urn; but in this new speculative enterprise he has somewhat changed the cast of characters, retaining Love and Poesy (as maiden and pipe player) but discarding Ambition, and adding new figures to which we shall come.
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 suprress the “lower senses” of touch and taste).
In Keats "Ode to a Nightingale" and Shelleys "Ode to the West Wind" both poets show much inspiration within their poetry. The bird in "Ode to a Nightingale" represents a supernatural being conjured up by the speaker. The wind in "Ode to the West Wind" inspires the speaker while serving as a "destroyer and preserver." In the poem, "Ode to a Nightingale" the reader sees that the poet draws his ...
If Nightingale is an experiment in thinking about art in terms of pure, “natural,” nonrepresenational music prolonged in time, the Urn is an experiment in thinking about art in terms of pure, “artificial,” representational visuality extneded in space (a space whose extension, in Keats’s special case, rounds on itself–the urn is a slef-limiting frieze).
As we have seen, precisely because the nightingale’s song is nonrepresentational it can ignore that world “where men sit and hear each other groan”; because is nonconceptual or nonphilosophical in can acoid those sorows and leaden-eyed despairs inseparable from thought. The Ode to a Nighingale can therefore bypass (until the questions which break its trance end the poem) the question of truth, and expiate in its consideration of sensation and beauty, suggesting, by its darkness, that the more indistinct and dim and remote that beauty, the better. Beauty, in the form of the bird’s song without words, stimulates the reverie of the musing Fancy, which endlessly projects itself on a perfect void–the essentially vacant, if transfixing, song of the nightingale. (116-117))
The poem had begun, we recall, 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 (and presented) at once, seemed to Keats, fresh from his disillusion with the nightingale, sweeter than a temporarily experienced art like music or poetry. (126)