Truth and Art: Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn

Truth and Art: Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn

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Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" offers a paradoxical concept of Beauty. It describes the frozen beauty portrayed on the Urn as sweeter than reality, for its expiration is a locked impossibility. The lover's kiss is sweeter when in waiting, and her timeless beauty and devotion are worth the kiss's impossibility. Thus, the observation of beauty is more sweet than its reception, and objects in their prime are best just before their expiration. This poem is reminiscent of Shakespeare's sonnets in its zeal for permanent youth and disdain for time's drain on youth's beauty. Yet, after all the desires for the Urn's timeless youth and beauty (an impossibility in reality), the poet ends with, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty-that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Keats objectifies and works to define beauty through his description of the Urn, or art in general. If the beauty found in the urn is an impossibility in reality, how can it be undeniable truth? "La Belle Dame sans Merci" further complicates this question. Here, beauty is false trickery. The knight is pulled in by a mythical creature whose beauty and pleasing actions draw him into her lair, where she leads him to tragic ending on the cold hill's side. It can be deduced from this poem that Beauty is deceiving, and, consequently, not Truth. So what are we left with? "Ode on a Grecian Urn" implies that art represents Beauty. But this Beauty is impossible in the realm of reality; it can only be in the unmoving atmosphere of an Urn's surface. After four and a half stanzas supplying evidence of the scene's impossibility, the finishing lines inextricably link Beauty to Truth. The only way the art on the Urn can be viewed as having a place in reality, is the Urn's physical timelessness: "When old age shall this generation waste, / Thou shalt remain.

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" Still, as much as an example to man of Beauty the Urn may be, the scenes its surface portray are impossible: the everlasting feeling of passion just before a kiss, or the boughs that never shed their leaves, for example. One of Keats's favorite subjects is Beauty and its relation to Art. But is this Truth? I think not, for that is why we need art.

 
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