Ode on a Grecian Urn

From Academic Kids

Ode on a Grecian Urn is a poem by John Keats first published in January 1820. It is thought not to be based on any specific Greek vase. The poem captures aspects of Keats's idea of "negative capability": we do not know who the figures are on the urn, what they are doing and where they are going. The uncertainty, doubt, and mystery continues: readers are divided whether the poem advocates the beauty and truth of the urn, or if in reality Keats believes that anything of any real worth is, paradoxically, to be found in the transient world. The ode deals with the complexity of art's relationship with real life.

The poem begins:

Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

and ends with the famous lines:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Due to uncertainty over where the punctuation is placed, it is impossible to know whether the last lines are spoken by the urn, or representative of the poets view. This has led to significant critical division over the meaning of the famous Ode.

One of the English language's more famous poems, Ode on a Grecian Urn has frequently been the subject of parody. Desmond Skirrow 'summarized' it thus:

"Gods chase/Round vase./What say?/What play?/Don't know./Nice, though."

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