What are the subject matter and theme of these two lines: 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

Expert Answers

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

These lines near the end of "Ode on a Grecian Urn" have long perplexed critics. Since Keats doesn't offer us a definition of either beauty or truth, their meaning is elusive, but we can draw out a reading from the text. 

Keats leads up to these last lines as he muses on an urn--to us it would look like a vase--from ancient Greece. The urn shows people heading to a pagan Greek religious festival in which a heifer will be sacrificed and people will sing, dance and celebrate. On the urn, a pair of young lovers are just about to kiss.

The unchanging urn inspires Keats to think about what it would be like to be a figure painted on it, caught at a...

(The entire section contains 361 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

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

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Already a member? Log in here.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on