artistic illustration of a Grecian urn set against a backdrop of hills and columns

Ode on a Grecian Urn

by John Keats
Start Free Trial

What is the overall tone of the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn"?

The overall tone of "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is both admiring and melancholy.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The overall tone of "Ode on a Grecian Urn " is simultaneously admiring and melancholy. The speaker is no doubt impressed by the artistry of the images adorning the sides of the urn. He admires how lively the images appear and wonders what story the images might be trying...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The overall tone of "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is simultaneously admiring and melancholy. The speaker is no doubt impressed by the artistry of the images adorning the sides of the urn. He admires how lively the images appear and wonders what story the images might be trying to tell. The constant questions regarding the context of the images (such as why the men are chasing the women or why the cow is about to be sacrificed) show how enraptured the speaker is by this work of art. He wishes to know more about it, but all he can do is endlessly contemplate it.

And yet there is an undeniable element of bittersweetness to the poem's tone as well. The speaker constantly points out how these images are frozen, capturing a time long past and keeping it perfectly preserved despite the passage of centuries. Because the urn's images are static, they can never fully progress, such as the young lover pursuing his beloved. The lovers will never kiss, because they are trapped in still images. The medium preserves the beauty and youth of the subjects, but their love will never be consummated. The poet is both comforted and saddened by this eternal stasis.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on