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Ode On A Grecian Urn And Its Historical Symbolism

2 Pages 480 Words

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Its Historical Symbolism"

In the poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” the urn is symbolic of history itself. True, every line of the poem paints a picture of a concrete item, but the pictures themselves are historical, and tell the stories of gods and deities, men and maidens, struggles and war, even love and death. Therefore, the urn itself is both physically and symbolically a representation of history.
The urn is a quiet item, much like history. It sits in its place until moved, or in the case of history, told. The urn, sitting silently, is also easily overlooked and forgotten, much like a foster child, and just like history which may be remembered for a little while, eventually fades into the background, “Thou foster-child of silence and slow time.” (2) Keats even directly refers to the urn as a historian, “Sylvan historian, who canst thus express; /A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme.” (3-4) further emphasizing my claim.
Melodies heard by the ear are sweet, but those heard by the heart are even sweeter. With history it is the same. We see history happening every day, but it’s the untold stories, the situations that change our lives that mean the most to us. This is emphasized in the lines,

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 ditties of no tone: (11-14)

One of the tales told most often in history is the story of love. Keats dedicates several lines of the poem to love. He also touches on the unchanging tides of history, “Fair youth, beneath the trees, though canst not leave,” (15) as well as death and the loss of love, “yet, do not grieve; /She cannot fade, though thou has not thy bliss” (18-19) At this point, Keats takes on a more morbid tone, further emphasizing death and yet proclaiming immortality.

Forever panting, and forever young...

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