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Ode On A Grecian Urn Romantic Poem English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1376 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Ode on a Grecian Urn is a romantic poem that addresses beauty as an essence that attributes to the happiness of human beings. Keats talks about the urn and some of the image on it. The poem has five stanzas each of which talks about varied figures and forms of beautiful nature of art. Time as a theme is the main theme that seems quite obvious in the poem. For instance, the main idea that draws the attention of the speaker about the urn is the freezing of time in which all the figures are demonstrated. They forever remain unchanged in whatever they are doing. There is no point when the “bold lover” will ever kiss the girl he wants. However the girl will also never age. Similarly, there is no time when the boughs will lose their leaves just like the ceremonial process will remain on its route to the sacrifice. All these claims are just but imagery since there neither the lovers, musicians, trees nor the procession are real. They only appear in picture form so they will remain as portraits.

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The themes of death and desire are also presented in the poem in a manner that is self reflexive. These two themes could either be treated separately or as one entity. Desire could be describes as longing for something with some element of unknown. Desire brings in an element of excitement especially when one feels like he is almost getting what he wants. This is exactly what happens in the first line of the third stanza. The poet says “Ah, happy happy boughs!”. This is an indication that the desires leads to some kind of emotional excitement. In the forth line of the first stanza, the narrator relates himself with the potter of the urn. He says “more sweetly than our rhyme”. He realizes that just like the potter of the urn, he will at one point also die because death is inevitable. In the forth stanza, the narrator implies that once one dies there is no way he will reappear since that will be his eternity.

The mood of the poem is an unperturbed reflection where the narrator reflects on how things will be after he dies. This is depicted from the first line where he says “Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness.’ The second line also contains the word ‘Silence”. Quietness and silence describe and environment where the narrators seems to be reflecting on how things will be in future. There is an iambic rhyme in the first line in which the narrator gives more stress on the words ‘still’, ‘bride’, the syllables ‘rav’ in the word ‘unravish’d and ‘qui’ and ‘ness’ in the word quietness. This creates an impression of the sound of a heartbeat which is normally the case when someone is thinking or reflecting on his life. Everything else is normally quite and all he could here is his heartbeat.

The title of the poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” incorporates very significant points that are very important to the overall understanding of the ideas in the poem. For instance, the poet uses the preposition on rather than ‘to’. This reflects a connection the pictures depicted by the urn and the narrator. The preposition ‘on’ indicates that the poem is not only based on the urn as a physical object but also on the qualities it possess. These qualities are in terms of the pictures and how they relate to the narrator. The title is therefore very significant to the meaning of the poem as it describes what is on the urn.

The major figures of speech used in the poem are personification which is a phone of metaphor and apostrophe. The personification is evident from the manner in which the narrator addresses the urn. He gives an impression of the urn being human. For instance in the second line of the first stanza, the narrator says “thou foster-child of silence and slow time.” By mentioning the word child, the narrator treats the urn as if it is a human being. The same is also seen in stanza four where the narrator says “When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain in midst of other woe.” This is to say that the urn will remain eternally even when other things die. From this lines, the reader gets an impression that the urn is a human being. Comparing an object with a human being therefore indicates the use of personification.

Apostrophe is also evident in the first line of the first stanza when the narrator addresses the urn as bride, foster child and a historian. In these words, the narrator speaks to something that is absent. The persistent questioning of the urn creates some tension between imagination and reality especially when the reader begins wondering why the narrator addresses the urn like it could answer the questions its being asked. For instance from the seventh to the tenth line of the first stanza, the narrator ask questions like ‘what men or gods are these? What maidens loth, what mad pursuit?” All these are questions that the urn can not answer but still the narrator asks them. The repetition of question all helps to add some suspense to the poem. This is because the reader will want to read farther through the poem to find out whether the questions are answered.

Single words like ‘what’ have been repeated in lines 5, 8, 9 and even 10 all of which represent caesura. This implies that the reader is supposed to pause and think about the question for effect. the use of the word ‘what’ in the beginning of six consecutive questions at the end of the first stanza also reflect the use of anaphora as a figure of speech. Repetition is also evident in the poem from the use of the word happy on several occasions. For instance, the first line of the third stanza states ‘Ah happy, happy boughs!’. The fifth line of the same stanza also states ‘More happy love! More happy, happy love! The repetition of the word happy helps in building the plot of the poem as well as show the abundance in which happiness exists. The repetition of the word love also gives an impression that there is more love around. The words ‘for ever” have also been used on more than one occasion in stanza three in line 4, 6, and 7. This creates a feeling of eternity or the continuous existence for long time.

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Rhyme has been efficiently used in the poem in the sense that every last word of each line rhymes with at least another word at the end of another line in the same stanza. For instance in stanza one, the word quietness at the end of the first line rhymes with the word express at the end of the third line. The word time at the end of the second line of the first stanza also rhymes with the word rhyme at the end of the forth line. The same applies to all stanzas. This is very effective because it creates some rather in the poem and therefore makes it more interesting. It also helps in the development of the plot of the poem and makes it to flow smoothly in the minds of the readers.

The identity of the narrator is easy to tell because he seems surprised about the occurrences on the pictorial on the urn. For instance, he says ‘Who are these coming to the sacrifice, To what green alter, O mysterious priest.’ This gives an impression that he is not used to such scenes meaning that he is not from that generation. Wars and sacrifices mostly existed in the older generation. The fact that the narrators seems surprised by the procession heading to the sacrifice means he is from the new or current generation. The tone of the poem also indicates that the narrator is a man. In most cases, it is the men that talk about beauty with such kind of desire and passion. Similarly, it is very clear on what his opinion towards the poem’s subject is. For instance in line 9 of the fifth stanza, he says “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, “that is all Ye know on earth and all ye need to know. This tells that he has already made up his mind on what beauty is. According to the narrator, everything else is not necessary.

Work cited

Keats, John. “Ode on a Grecian Urn” New York: Oxford University Press, 1819.


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