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In stanza 1 of "Ode on a Grecian Urn", what literary device does the speaker use to...

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rivkabeedie1 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:01 AM via web

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In stanza 1 of "Ode on a Grecian Urn", what literary device does the speaker use to speak directly to the urn?

apostrophe

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:12 AM (Answer #1)

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This poem starts with personification.  Personificiation is the literary device in which an author acts as if an inanimate object is actually alive.  To put it more formally, personification is a figure of speech in which an inanimate object is imbued with human characteristics or is addressed as an animate being.

You can see Keats do this right away in the first line.  He addresses the urn as "thou" and calls it a bride and a child and a historian.  Obviously, the urn is none of these things, it is just a pot.

So, by talking to the urn as if it were a person, Keats is using personification.

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted January 12, 2010 at 11:24 PM (Answer #2)

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The first word in the poem 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' by John Keats is 'Thou.' This tells us as readers that the poet is talking to someone or something, but at first we are not sure what it is - the only clue is in the title. Keats calls the urn a virgin ('still-unravish'd bride) and also a 'foster-child.' He has personified the urn, so that he can 'speak' to it. The pictures on the side of the urn have suggested several abstract thoughts and questions to the poet, but an author cannot just write down a lot of questions in this particular genre. So, having now personified the urn, he has given himself an object to which to address his queries. The urn only 'participates' in the sense of being a 'listener' for us - Keats even addresses questions to it directly. However these musings are really for him, and for us. The personification is just a device for airing his 'Muse' or musings.

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