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...
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