John Keats – Ode on a Grecian urn

Thou still unravished bride of quietness, 
Thou foster child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
      A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
      Of deities or mortals, or of both,
            In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loath?
      What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
            What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
      Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
      Pipe to the spirit dities of no tone.
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
      Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
            Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
      She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss
            Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
      Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unweari-ed,
      Forever piping songs forever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
      Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,
            Forever panting, and forever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
      That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
            A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
      To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
      And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed?
What little town by river or sea shore,
      Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
            Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
      Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
            Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
      Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
      Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!
      When old age shall this generation waste,
            Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
      “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that is all
            Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.



13 Responses to John Keats – Ode on a Grecian urn

  1. Abdul_Mueid says:

    Hey, we did this poem at school this year… Actually we had to research the Grecian Urns, all the different kinds and then relate that stuff to the poem.

  2. Katie says:

    I adore this poem and John Keats. Considered one of the most perfect pieces of literature in the english language, Ode to a Grecian Urn never fails to sweep me inside of Keat’s momentary musings on a fantasy world. How could anyone not be, with the build-up of emotion he creates to climax in the third stanza?

  3. Silvia says:

    Ode on a Grecian Urn is one of Keats’ jewel sonnets. Exquisite comparable to Shakespeare, one of the masterpieces of World Literature.
    I wander which vase he was thinking of.

  4. Silvia says:

    Ode on a Grecian Urn is one of Keats’ jewel sonnets. Exquisite comparable to Shakespeare, one of the masterpieces of World Literature.
    I wonder which vase he was thinking of.

  5. Paul Roe says:

    I know this one by heart.

    I loosely paraphrased it, parodied it (non-humorously) and embraced its sci fi elements while staying the vessel’s course:

    Sylvia muses: ‘I wonder which vase he was thinking of’
    I am pretty certain that it was one of his own imagining.

    Katie notes: “Considered one of the most perfect pieces of literature in the English language’
    Yes, despite the fact that in much of the ode, Keats is singing about singing. A poem must be masterful to overcome that, and this one does for sure.


    • Elivani says:

      Wow, Secret is a pfcreet example of what i’m talking about. The Secret website even has a “tips for moms” section, so they can “talk to their daughters about sweat.” That’s pretty much a signal for guys to keep on moving.You bring up Old Spice; That makes me think about AXE men’s body spray.. Which is Old Spice’s positioning on steroids. I’m thinking there’s a whole blog post to be written about how AXE’s marketing speaks to men (and women).

  6. jeremy says:

    John Keatz use the urn to express what the people stand for and what there about. i think that keatz is a good person but a little on the crazy side.

  7. shalin says:

    i loveeeeeeeee this poem, it’s absolutely amaze 🙂

  8. M A C says:

    It’s a masterpiece. And a work of a life time.

  9. uh oh grammar police says:

    shalin says: it’s absolutely amaze 😀

    Really? …It’s a maze? OH. You mean to say it’s amazing! Gotcha.

  10. RY Deshpande says:

    This is a perfectly inspired piece which has come straight from the Realms of Gold, with its exquisite music and intuitive thought content and visualization of the timeless held by the fleeting and the passing, the immortalized static time. And there is something very deep, something ever haunting in “Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity”—in a certain sense, with its enjambment, more profound than the famous “Truth-Beauty” equation. In it the undertone is more magical and mystical than the factual-looking assertion of the other.

    ~ RYD

  11. John Keats is one of my favorites when it comes to re-representing the world as a magical place. Long live romanticism!

    Visit my Poetry Blogspot

  12. anasuya says:

    Heard melodies are sweet ,but those unheard are sweeter…love the idea .More often than not, silence is so powerful and provocative.And Keats has very beautifully portrayed the thought in that verse.The idea of silence is presented repeatedly through the word ‘silent’, ‘cold pastoral’ .I think truth , beauty and immortality are all concocted perfectly with an exactitude which was required to make something ordinary like an Urn an extraordinary and exquisite piece of Art..

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