A Good Biography Of John Keats

1428 words - 6 pages

The poetry of John Keats contains many references to physical things, from nightingales to gold and silver-garnished things, and a casual reader might be tempted to accept these at face value, as simple physical objects meant to evoke a response either sensual or emotional; however, this is not the case. Keats, in the poem Ode Upon a Grecian Urn, turns the traditional understanding of physical objects on its head, and uses them not solid tangible articles, but instead as metaphors for and connections to abstract concepts, such as truth and eternity. In the poem, Keats dismisses the value of physical things as only corporeal for what he feels is more substantial and lasting, the indefinite ...view middle of the document...

"; another description, more Romantic and fitting to Keats, is Bertrand Russell's: "Truth is a shining goddess, always veiled, always distant, never wholly approachable, but worthy of all the devotion of which the human spirit is capable.". Keats is essentially saying through the urn that truth, the conforming to facts, is the exact same thing as physical beauty; beauty is a factual attribute of an object.An analysis of the text, searching for connections between the abstract and the tangible, would do much to elucidate this matter. The poem is broken into five parts.The first section opens with a description of the urn as a bride, a foster-child, a historian. All these personifications are subtle linkings of the abstract actions related to those roles which Keats assigns to the concrete object, the urn. He then further reinforces this subtle link with a series of observations on what is painted on the urn. "What men or gods are these? What maidens loath? / What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? / What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?" (lines 8-10) is another demonstration; he makes the statement that what is physically on the urn is a series of conceptual things, such as "ecstasy", "escape" and "pursuit"; thus the two are inseparable.The second part opens with yet another junction of the physical and the abstract. "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; . . ." (line 11-12) is a clever disguising of this. Short of written music, which the Ancient Greeks who crafted the urn did not have the aid of, what exactly is an unheard melody? There is no other answer save "an abstract concept with no definite solution", and this is tied in the same phrase to the much more concrete "heard melodies". Again, the two are related by Keats. Even the descriptions are a demonstration of this: calling a melody "sweet" is more or less personification. Keats then addresses the figures on the urn directly. "Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave / Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; / Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss" (lines 15-17); he is again insinuating a coupling of the abstract actions of those painted on the urn with the actual physical urn, connecting them. The end of the second part states how eternal the actions of the figures are; yet, how could they be eternal without the pottery which encases their deeds?The third section resumes where the second leaves off, which more statements on how lucky the urn is that it cannot grow old, weary, and wither as everything around it does; "Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed / Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; / And, happy melodist, unwearied, / For ever piping songs for ever new." is an example of this. The linking in this section is identical to that of the previous; that is, he contrasts the physical urn with the abstract actions taking place on it. "For ever warm and still to be enjoyed, / For ever panting, and for ever...

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