What poetic techniques are used in "Ode on a Grecian Urn"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One poetic technique that is used in this poem from the outset is metaphor. The speaker compares the urn he is talking about to a series of different images that each point towards the centrality and importance of the urn as a symbol of eternal beauty. Note the comparisons that are established in the first couple of lines:

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
     Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express...

The urn is compared to a "still unravish'd bride of quietness," a "foster-child of silence and slow time" and a "Sylvian historian." These metaphors are very important in the way that they establish the sense of how this urn represents a transcendent beauty for Keats. For him, the urn is "unravish'd" in the sense that it stands for how true beauty and art does not diminish or fade over the years. True beauty dwells in a realm of "silence and slow time" that allows Keats to develop the contrast between the urn and the frail humans who are left to contemplate such beauty in their brief mortal spans. Therefore metaphor is one poetic technique that Keats uses with great effect in this poem.


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