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 do the last two lines of "Ode on a Grecian Urn" mean?

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The last two lines of "Ode on a Grecian Urn" might be taken to mean that beauty and truth are one and the same thing, and this is all that humanity can know.

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Throughout "Ode on a Grecian Urn," the speaker describes the images with which the eponymous urn is decorated. In pondering these images the speaker also reflects upon the nature and purpose of art.

In the final lines of the poem, the speaker indicates that the images on the urn seem to communicate one idea, namely that "beauty is truth, truth beauty." In other words, the speaker reflects that beauty and truth are one and the same thing. Perhaps we might take this to mean that wherever and whenever one finds beauty, one will also find truth in that beauty. For example, the beauty of a person might point to the pleasing truth of that person's character. Likewise the beauty of the natural world might point to what many Romantics like Keats considered a truth—that God manifests himself through nature.

We might also say that there is a truth in the beauty of art, such as the images with which the urn is decorated. The beauty of art perhaps points to the truth that human beings are inherently creative, imaginative beings.

We could also postulate that wherever there is truth, there is also, necessarily, beauty. There is often a simplicity to truth that appears beautiful, especially when there is, surrounding that truth, so much that is untrue, disingenuous, and deceptive. There is also a beauty in the truth, or realization, that humans are creative beings capable of producing timeless, beautiful works of art, such as the eponymous urn.

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Can you tell me the meaning of every line in the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn"?

Stanza 1, the speaker is addressing the urn itself.  He mentions it is timeless and has lasted for a long time and asks questions of the message on its side--who are these lovers? These gods? The story behind the chase and the piper? Stanza 2, he says he can imagine the tune the piper plays and it is sweeter than one actually heard simply because everyone who imagines the tune will imagine one that would sound sweet to him...therefore the imagined tune is sweeter to everyone.  He also mentions the trees whose leaves will never fall and the lover always on the verge of that first kiss. The girl will always be lovely, it will always be Spring. How wonderful to be stuck in that position. Stanza 3, he continues with the idea of being stuck in the good part of love and weather.  The lovers will never experience vengence or hurt, and the spring weather wil always be balmy, not hot and parching. Stanza 4, he speaks of the cow decorated with flowers being led by a priest to the sacrifice.  The town is deserted and no one will ever know why since it's not on the urn...the water is ever present and the streets are forever silent.  The people can never return home since they were not painted onto the urn's story. Stanza 5, he mentions the shape of the urn and the stories etched there forever.  He bemoans that after we are dead the urn will still exist.  Cold, hard beauty and truth remains. It is all we need to know.

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Can you tell me the meaning of every line in the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn"?

Keats was inspired to write this poem after seeing the scenes painted on an ancient Greek urn. The eNotes introduction points out that the speaker "attempts to identify with the characters because to him they represent the timeless perfection only art can capture."

There is not enough room here to give you the meaning of every line in the poem. If you could point out a few lines that are difficult for you, that would be more doable.

Take a look at the eNotes summary and discusion of themes in the poem; I've pasted links to them below. I've also given you a link to an article on how to explicate, or analyze, poetry. You should find a lot of useful informaton there.

Good luck!

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