Ode on a Grecian Urn Questions and Answers
by John Keats

Ode on a Grecian Urn book cover
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Is there a contradiction in the idea that "Beauty is Truth"?

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It is ironic that beauty in art is by its nature flawed because it is lifelessly frozen in time in just the same way as the bride and groom, pipers and processional on the urn are lifelessly frozen in time. The immutable beauty shown on the urn is unlike human beauty that suffers physical depletion because physical human beauty is mutable, changeable, while beauty in art is immutable: "Beauty is Truth." Yet beauty in art cannot be known by contemplation just as eternity cannot be known by contemplation. The notion of lifeless beauty in art contradicts the notion that beauty is truth and truth beauty. If art is flawed because it is lifeless, then it can't be truth as truth is not flawed, and truth, immutable by nature, is conflictingly applied to humanity, which is living, changing, mutable. In contemplating the flawed nature of lifeless beauty, Keats also identifies a contradiction in the Romantic period notion that beauty captures truth and that truth is shown in beauty.

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