Discuss “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/ Are sweeter” from “Ode on a Grecian Urn” in relation to “Ode to a Nightingale.”
I was asked to write an essay about the following:
Discuss Keats’ lines “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter”, from “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in relation to the narrator’s experience in “Ode to a Nightingale.”
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It is an interesting question, which arises from intertextual practice within a single author's canon. The quoted lines in "Ode on a Grecian Ode" refers to the melodies sung by the person whose picture in inscribed on the surface of the urn. His melodies belong to another world of art and are thus inaudible. It is the unheard quality that enigmatizes the melody all the more and makes it sweeter than the heard ones.
In the Nightingale Ode, the inspiring song of the Nightingale may well seem to be a 'heard melody' going beyond the charms of that which is unheard. But things are more complex than that. The bird throughout the poem is uder a veil. It can never be seen. It is an obscure object of desire, which never exists beyond its melody. This disembodied aspect of the Nightingale in Keats's poem lends it with the enigmatic aura of the 'unheard' despite being 'heard' all along. The journey is thus jettisoned with the stress on the word 'forlorn' and there is a return to the ordinary world of human suffering in temporal flux.
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