Ode To A Urn Detailed Analysis
Uploaded by surfchick on Feb 21, 2005
Ode To A Urn
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.
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...