Summary and Critical Appreciation of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats
“Ode on a Grecian Urn” is one of all time master-pieces in the history of literature penned by John Keats. The poem under discussion is a beautiful piece of art on art, beauty, truth and time. It transports us into the world of romanticism where we feel that unlike the human beings, the art has the power to be immortal.
In the very first stanza, we see Keats standing before an ancient Grecian urn and addressing it. He is wonder struck to see what has been made on it. He sees the shapes on it. He asks what type of legends they display and from where they have come. The picture of a group of men following a group of women attracts his attention and compels him to ponder over it and fosters many questions in his teeming brain. He asks what story they have behind them.
In the second stanza, the poet comes across another picture. This picture displays a man who is lying in the glade of a tree and playing on a pipe. He is of the opinion that though the lover is frozen in time and can never make love with his beloved, he should not feel dejected because the beauty of his beloved will remain everlasting. The music he is enjoying on the pipe though ‘unheard’ will also be sweeter than the melodies that are mortal.
In the third stanza, Keats feels great pleasure to see the trees around the lovers. He is happy because he is of the opinion that these trees will never shed their leaves. Another reason of his happiness is that he thinks that the music of the lover being played on the pipe will always be new. Similarly, he is glad to think that unlike mortal love, both the lovers will be able to be in love forever and ever.
In the fourth stanza, the poet observes the picture of a group of villagers taking a heifer to sacrifice it. He thinks from where they have come and where they are taking this heifer. Whether they are taking it to “What green altar, O mysterious priest…” Then, he imagines the little town where this group of people is living. He says that most of the inhabitants have left the town and that’s why, the town is empty. Those who have left the town will never be able to return because they are frozen in time.
In the fifth stanza, the poet Keats is again addressing the urn and sees the urn existing in the world after the removal of his generation from the world. The urn will keep narrating the story about its enigmatic lesson to the coming generations. The lesson is: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” He further says that this is the only thing that the urn knows about and the only thing that the urn needs to know. (Words: 481)