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In discussing Keats Ode on a Grecian Urn as a Romantic poem, it is necessary to throw light on Romanticism. Romanticism is a philosophical, ideational and literary movement that swept across Europe in the 18th century. It started as a political movement in France when King Louis XVI was beheaded on account of treason. This nostalgia for freedom quickly went to Germany where it became a philosophical movement. Philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Johann von Wolfgang, Heinz Schilling quickly adopted the cry for freedom. The wide fire quickly spread to England, it was a literary movement which was quickly adopted by Thomas Paine then Mary Wollstonecraft and Richard Price, amongst other philosophers. When this movement appeared in England in the late 1780s, poets saw it as an opportunity to rebel against neo-classical ideals which include writing in a grand and eloquent language and about rational things. Since majority of the Romantic poets were majorly against the norms of neo-classicism, Romanticism became an escape to air their nostalgia. William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats are among the canon of this movement. The poetry of John Keats makes a very interesting part of this movement. Using the poem Ode on a Grecian Urn, the idea of Romanticism will be enumerated as follows. John Keats is known as one of the greatest amongst the younger generation of Romantic poets, Keats studies apothecary and this is reflected in his poetry. Keats trajectory of Romanticism celebrated eternity, stillness, escapism, love, freedom and fancy. Of all, escapism is the most notable as found in the Ode on the Grecian Urn. Escapism is a consequence of Romanticism and it bothers on the flight of fancy, a vivid and powerful imagination which can transcend the mind from the realities and pains of life. John Keats is notorious for this because of his hereditary disease that killed at the age of

27. In the poem, Ode on the Grecian Urn, the poet persona sings of the beauteous forms of things, the ecstasy of immortality such as that of lovers, communal catharsis, mythology and other allusive images. The poet persona is lost in a reverie of immortality of the Grecian Urn; he relates the impossibilities of his life with the eternal impossibilities of the Grecian Urn. The lovers in the Urn that are bound never to consummate for eternity even though they both see each other, this is a clear illustration of the universality of poetry. Like of the Keatian poems, the fancy cannot cheat so well, the poet persona reaches the peak of escapism and after the catharsis, he tolls back to himself and to the realities of life, the impermanence of life and the futility of escapism. Forlorn! John Keats represents the younger generation of Romantics that hymns the futility, impermanence, change and freedom of existence as encapsulated in the European Romantic tradition. John Keats has successfully used idealization, romanticization, simple diction, isolation and inspirational vision to echo the true Romantic ideals.


Romanticism in the poem Ode on the Grecian Urn

The poem was written in 1819 and it is a highly descriptive poem which describes a Grecian Urn in a flight of fancy. The structure of the poem is divided in 5 stanzas and each having ten verses. The poem as aforementioned is that of idealization and romanticization, the poet persona imaginatively travels with the reader into the ideal world of the Grecian Urn where certain imprints are left for the persona cum reader to decipher in other to appreciate the whole aesthetics of this poem. One of the major elements of Romanticism in the poem is the lack of convention for time and space, in the ideal utopia of the poets imagination, spatial and temporal setting isnt taken into cognisance. This is not only a feature of Romanticism but it has a particularization on the poetry of Keats. Through Keats aesthetics of poetry, he brings to life, scenes painted on a 2,000 years old Urn and together with the spirit of the artist who created it. This is reminiscent of the Romantic Spirit of the Age. The poetry of Keats has the quality of movement and action, Keats describes the still life painted on the Urn as if it is still living. Keats makes it as though he is watching the scenes play out to him as he spins the Urn. Movement and action can be seen in Stanza 2, Verses 1-4 of the poem as quoted below Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared, Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone As can be seen from the above quotation, the present tense of the poetry, the strong sense of visual and auditory imageries adds life and dimension to the poem which consequentially makes it a universal appeal.

The poetic diction and style of Keats is fairly simple and can be grasped if followed rhythmically. This is characteristic of Keatsian poetry. Once again, with referent to the above quoted stanza, one can see/hear the simplicity of style, the continuum of rhythm and the intensity of imagery. Keats, like other Romantics, possesses the spirit of Romantic truth and beauty which is displayed through their art. The usage of created things as found in nature, in their poem, makes the reader come closer to understanding truth and perfection. The ancient Urn is a Greek artists attempt to understand truth, perfection and permanence which Keats refers to in the last verses of his work as quoted below Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. The above quotation from the poem refers the reader back to the state of simplicity or the Hobbesian state of nature where beauty is the only truth in nature and the only truth in nature is beauty. This is the utmost quip of Romanticism. The nostalgia for the past is also seen in the poetry of Keats. In fact, the Urn itself is an accolade of the past and by Keats ode to it, evocations from the past can be defended as a feature of his poetry. The ancient allusive imageries in the Urn are all reminiscent of the past. This marks out his poetry. As aforementioned in this discourse, escapism is a very important feature of Keatsian poetry. This is found in all his poems but a stanza from the Ode to the Grecian Urn will be taken to defend this postulation. The following verse will be examined closely as an escapist tendency, Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter. The escapist world of imagination can be seen when the unheard melodies which is not an empirical phenomenon becomes sweeter than the melodies we are likened with. This shift into the imagination is where the whole corpus of escapism lies.


Another characteristic of Keats poetry is his imagery of passion, imagination, mystery, inspiration and nature, amongst others. Keats employs tactile, visual, auditory and even sensory imagery to express his mind state. This is clearly buttressed in the following verses 1-5: Thou still unravished bride of quietness! Thou foster child of silence and slow time Sylvan historian, who canst thus express A flowry tale more sweetly than our rhyme What leaf-fringd legion haunts about thy shape.

The visual imagery of the first verse and other following imagery in the verses all culminate to defend the assertion of Keatsian imagination. Another important aspect of Keatsian poetry is the use of symbolism which is a prominent feature of this literary movement. In Keats poem, garland of flowers and leaves symbolises nature, a nature thatll always be there as it is frozen in time. This nature is an aspect of Keatsian idealization of immortality. The Grecian Urn symbolises the eternal virtues of truth, beauty and goodness as found in nature. The loss of spatial and temporal setting forms the bedrock for the aesthetics of this period. Keats also uses a lot of phrases as do all Romantics. This copious use of phrases can be seen in the extract below from stanza 2, verses 17-20: Bold, love, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal-Yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss For ever with thou love, and she be fair!


The extract above is an example of the use of phrases, each with its independent meaning. The thematic preoccupations of Keats and his contemporaries include although not limited to emotion, passion, nature, ecstasy of immortality, the futility of reality, copious mythological devices, the long ago and the far away, etc. This point is found in all of Keats poems including Ode on the Grecian Urn. The use of the long ago and far away can be seen in the use legendary characters and ancient artefacts. This is not surprising as the second love of the Romantics after nature is arts. The Parnassian concept of art, leconte de lisle, can be defended in their poetry as art is done for arts sake and bears no burden to the condition of man is a realistic society. All these bear the burden of the Romantics nostalgia. The quintessential feature of Romantic poetry has been reserved as the last point. This is the euphoria that rebelled against Neo-Classical ideals and beliefs. This is evident from the spontaneity of their writings, the freedom from all clutches of poetic and imaginative restrictions, the general shift from communal catharsis to private esotericism, the shift from the court to the rustic life. The poetry of Keats and other Romantics can be seen as the alter/native tradition of British literature.


CONCLUSION All that can be said within the confines of this short work have been said. This brief discourse has outlined the basic features that mark the socio-historical background to Romanticism and with a particularisation on Keats; some peculiar features have been addressed. Ode on a Grecian Urn has been appreciated to some degree under the rubric of idealization, romanticization, escapism, rustic or pastoral trajectory, amongst others and textual references have been provided to defend any assertion outlined here. One can only hope that the aim of this discourse is achieved.


Keeran, Peggy and Jennifer Bowers. Literary Research and the British Romantic Era: Strategies and Sources. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2005. REF PR 457 .K44 2005 Marcuse, Michael. A Reference Guide for English Studies. University of California Press, 1990. Ref PR 56 .M37 1990. A Research Guide for Undergraduate Students: English and American Literature. Ed. Nancy Baker and Nancy Huling. 6th ed. MLA, 2006. Ref PR 56 B34 2006 The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism. Ed. Stuart Curran. Cambridge UP, 1993. PR 457 .C33 1993 Encyclopedia of Literary Romanticism. Ed. Andrew Maunder. Facts on File, 2010. Ref PR 457 .E53 2010.