John Keats, in "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and "Ode to a Nightingale"
attempts to connect with two objects of immortality to escape from the
rigors of human life. In "Ode to a Nightingale", Keats attempts to
connect with a bird's song because the music knows nothing of aging
and mortality. Keats has the same motivation in "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
while trying to connect with three separate images on a mysterious
urn. Connecting in this sense means to either fully understand the
object or become the object itself. For example, when Keats attempts
to "connect" with an image on the urn, he attempts to fully understand
the origin of the image. While his attempts to connect with the two
objects fall short, he nevertheless makes an interesting conclusion
about the ideals of beauty and truth.
Keats begins the "Ode to a Nightingale" in pain, before hearing the
melody of the nightingale. After hearing this music, he wishes to join
the bird and leave the human world. He first attempts to connect with
the bird using a "draught of vintage" (11), but upon further thinking,
decides that he will "not (be) charioted by Bacchus and his pards"
(32). (Bacchus is god of wine and revelry.) Keats finally joins the
bird on the "viewless wings of Poesy." Though able to imagine his
flight with the nightingale, the narrator is can't actually see
anything. Keats can imagine the "fast fading violets cover'd up in
leaves" (47), but "cannot see what flowers are at my feet" (41). He
can also picture the moon in his mind, but says "there is not light"
(38). The song of the nightingale has Keats in such ecstasy b...
... middle of paper ...
we needed to know, according to Keats, was that "beauty is truth,
truth beauty" (49 Urn). The narrator would never know what the
nightingale meant when it sang its songs. Furthermore, Keats would
never be able to fully understand the images on the urn because it was
created in a different time period. Therefore, Keats would never
understand the full truth behind either the song or the urn. But
according to Keats' conclusion, none of this mattered. The only truth
that he needed to know was that these objects were beautiful and
worthy of being admired.
Keats, John. ?Ode on a Grecian Urn.? Poetical Works. 1884. Bartleby.com GreatBooks Online. 15 June 2004 <http://www.bartleby.com/126/41.html>.
Keats, John. "Ode to a Nightingale." Romanticism: An Anthology. Ed. Duncan Wu. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. 1058-1060.
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