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What is a comparision between the permanence of art over the transitory quality of life...

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user9042122 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 3, 2013 at 4:26 PM via web

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What is a comparision between the permanence of art over the transitory quality of life as depicted in the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" taking examples from each stanza.

 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 3, 2013 at 8:18 PM (Answer #1)

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In his "Ode on a Grecian Urn," John Keats writes of the spirit that runs through all things. Certinly, in the urn, which represents all art, there is a timelessness that does not exist in the real world.

In stanza I, for instance, there is a bride who is "unravished" by time who escapes the "struggle" of real life. Then, in stanza II, Keats compares the fact that the figures are frozen upon the urn and the "Bold Lover" cannot kiss the the beautiful girl; on the other hand, she "cannot fade" and lose her beauty as in reality. "Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!" the poet also addresses the timelessness of the art to the Lover. Continuing the trope of the permanence of art, Keats exalts the "happy boughs" of the tree that forever are in the newness of Spring, the "happy love" that is forever exciting and enjoyable without the sorrow that time brings.

But, in stanza IV, the tone changes as the poet recognizes the static quality of the urn that remains while the people who have created it have departed, leaving the work of art "desolate." Stanza V's apostrophe, "O Attic shape!" while addresing the region of Greece known as Attica also connotes that part of homes in which old things long forgotten are stored, thus mitigating their value. For, while the "marble men and maidens" form a "Cold Pastoral" that will remain, they are static and frozen and cannot, therefore, represent true beauty that is subject to time and change.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

In the end, the self-contained beauty on the urn exists only in the timeless world of art, and is, thus, a false beauty. The truth of beauty exists only in the real world of Time and Change.

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