How do I scan this one line from Keats's poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn"? The line in bold is the one I'm having difficulty with. ***** When old age shall this genertion waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. ***** My guess is... Beauty / is truth, / truth beau / ty, - that / is all That doesn't sound quite right though. Also, which words do I put the emphasis on? I have no clue on this one. At first I thought it might be BEAU - ty - is - TRUTH... but then I didn't know if both of the next "truth" and "beau" would be accented. Obviously I'm grasping at straws here. I appreciate any help.

Expert Answers

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This famous and sometimes misunderstood line from "Ode on a Grecian Urn," by Keats, is surrounded by lines of iambic pentameter.  This line is a variation, which is natural since it's the centerpiece of the stanza and, perhaps, the poem. 

If you check the dictionary to see where the stress falls in the word beauty, you'll find that it lands on the first syllable.  That takes care of half the line.  And, since beauty is the first word of the line, you automatically know then that this will not be an exact line of iambic pentameter.  Thus, I would scan the line like this, with stressed syllables in bold:

"Beauty    is truth    truth beau    ty."--that    is all

So you have the following:

Trochee     iamb        spondee          iamb          iamb

Again, it is a variation of iambic rhythm.  Hope this helps.

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