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

Ode on a Grecian Urn

by John Keats
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What type of figurative language is used in "Ode on a Grecian Urn"?

Figurative language used in "Ode on a Grecian Urn" include metaphor, personification, and oxymoron.

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There are numerous examples of figurative language used in John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn."

First, Keats uses metaphor when he calls the urn an "unravish'd bride of quietness" and a "foster child of silence and slow time." The urn being an urn, it is not...

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There are numerous examples of figurative language used in John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn."

First, Keats uses metaphor when he calls the urn an "unravish'd bride of quietness" and a "foster child of silence and slow time." The urn being an urn, it is not literally a virgin bride or a foster child, but Keats is trying to emphasize the purity of the artwork by using such comparisons. The images on the urn will never progress, and the people, animals, and plants rendered will never decay or fade. He also refers to the urn as a "historian," as the images on its sides capture life (or at least an idealized approximation of life) in a time and place long gone by.

Another example of figurative language used in this poem is personification. When looking at an image of a tree, Keats personifies the tree by describing its boughs as "happy":

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu.

The tree's leaves will never fall, since the images on the urn are frozen in time, therefore leaving the tree in a never-ending state of "happiness" and springtime.

Finally, Keats uses oxymoron when he describes the urn's images as "Cold Pastoral." This is because the pastoral as a genre is usually associated with the springtime. Pastorals idealize country life and are often associated with warmth. However, because the images on the urn are static and remote, there is a coldness to them as well. This oxymoron captures the complexity of the juxtaposition: the images are beautiful but without animation or life.

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