Ode On Grecian Urn Imagine the following: a bride dressed in white on her wedding day, savage men chasing after women, the lingering subject of love, or a peaceful, uncorrupted town. What do these topics have in common? Through the use of these topics, John Keats portrays the theme of eternal innocence and the sufficiency of beauty throughout his poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” In the first stanza of the poem which has a rhyme scheme of ababcdedce, Keats introduces the theme of eternal innocence and the sufficiency of beauty with reference to the “unravished bride of quietness.” Accepting her purity of not yet engaging in the sexual actions of marriage, the urn portrays the bride in this state, and she will remain like so forever. Also in the first stanza, Keats uses the literary technique of cacophony to describe savage men chasing women into the dark, mysterious, and savage woods. Some of the cacophonic words include “thy, Arcady, and ecstasy.” Using these words, Keats makes the urn capture the picture of the chase before any sexual desires or intentions are fulfilled. Since the urn ceases to describe anything past the chase itself, the situation is purely innocent with beauty thus complying with the theme.
Also evident throughout the second and third stanzas is the theme of eternal innocence and beauty. Keats writes of a young man sitting under a tree with the girl whom he loves. He is playing a pan flute to the girl expressing his passion for her through music. Once captured by Story2 the urn, the picture will remain like so forever. The trees with the leaves, the maiden, and the young man himself will always remain the same.
He will always play the flute and can never kiss the girl. Keats uses the following lines in this stanza: “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, / For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” These lines simply mean that the boy doesn’t have the bliss of the kiss; but the poet says not to worry because the young maiden will always be remain by his side, young and beautiful. The urn captures her innocence. Therefore, since the maiden and the young man never actually have a sexual contact relationship, their love is pure, innocent, and eternal thus complying with the theme of eternal innocence and beauty. Continuing to the fourth stanza, the theme of eternal innocence and beauty is profound with the subject of a peaceful, uncorrupted town. The urn presents a priest leading a heifer dressed in garland up to an altar.
The people from the town are on their way to the altar. The town symbolizes the potential of man (cheating, lying, pride, and envy). Then, as the story continues, a bit of irony becomes present. The people are portrayed to have taken over a spiritual nature of innocence and purity. They are spiritual in nature as depicted by the urn; but not even five minutes later, they plan to sacrifice the heifer.
But, once again, by freezing in time the picture of innocence, the urn does not represent the corrupted image that is about to take place. It has caught the people in a holy moment, and it has caught the town as an empty picture of beauty. Therefore, Keats once again demonstrates eternal innocence and beauty by capturing on the urn the picture of an uncorrupted town and a group of holy people. In the last stanza, Keats tells the reader he has teased their thought by convincing that the theme of innocence and beauty are ever present in society. This last stanza leaves the reader with mixed emotions as a result of the mixed imagery. This means that the narrator voices Story3 protests of the superiority of the world captured in the Arcadian scenes (first stanza), but is perplexed by the unanswered questions stemming from the silence of the “Cold Pastoral” in the last stanza. He is primarily trying to tease the thought process by making the reader think of something eternal.
Also adding to the confusion is the most famous part of the poem that lies within the couplet at the conclusion of the ode. Keats metaphorically penned these lines: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” It is said that even Keats was not clear of the exact message presented by this statement. Most critics think he used the terms of truth and beauty in a Platonic sense, as verbal representations of the highest ideals. The first part of the statement is relatively clear-the highest expressions of art are the most sublime expressions of wisdom and truth. But, the last part of the message leaves a lingering sense.
Maybe he thought only the beautiful parts of life should be represented which is comparable to the images on the urn. But, only Keats knew the real meaning. Overall, this last stanza forces the reader to see what is in the surrounding world. It foresees that when there is a presence of “other woe” within the world (which is relevant to the world today: 180 years later), the urn and its eternal emanations of beauty will survive. So, even though the last stanza is of a different structure (does not have the urn representing a scene), it still represents innocence and beauty especially within the famous line “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”.
And therefore, as demonstrated throughout the entire poem by the use of innocent, unfulfilled images painted on the urn, Keats demonstrates the theme of innocence and eternal beauty.