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"Ode to a Grecian Urn," John Keats's metaphysical contemplation of Nature, Art, and Love finds its tension between the perishable and the eternal. In Stanza V, the speaker abandons his personification in the first stanza of the urn as "bride," foster child," and "Sylvan historian," objectifying the urn as "Attic shape"; that is, an artifact made in Athens. No longer, then, is the urn considered immortal to the speaker as eventual decay will come even to it.
With the urn's return to the world of time, the meaning of the urn's message," Beauty is truth, truth beauty" comes under different interpretations. Since this equation is valid only within the imaginary world of art as the figures are frozen in their actions,human thought divides people from eternity, and, thus, beauty becomes perishable and, as art, does not hold the answer to life. Beauty, then, is not truth.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," --that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
"Ye" is the urn in this interpretation as the speaker addresses it.
In another interpretation of this scene, the essay "Ode on a Grecian Urn: The Pious Frauds of Art: A Reading of 'The Ode on a Grecian Urn,'" critic Jean-Claude Salle contends,
"All ye need to know" is Keats's answer to his own anxiety, the resignation of an agnostic taking refuge in time to silence his yearning for eternity...
The truth we shall never know on earth; let the partial truth of art reconcile us to our ignorance.
While Salle believes that the speaker resigns himself to believing in the immutability of art, others are of the opinion that a melancholic speaker parts from art and its illusions of eternity as not befitting man. For the urn, Beauty becomes a substitute for truth, but not for man.
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