“Ode on Grecian Urn” was written in 1819 by one of the most prolific, even if the most short-lived, poets of the Romantic period John Keats. In this ode Keats draws the relationship between imagination and actuality, and the supremacy and immortality of a work of art if compared to our imperfect and ordinary life.
The poet starts the first stanza of the poem by addressing the urn directly as if he was having a conversation with it. Keats' imagined urn is addressed as if he were contemplating a real urn. It has survived intact from antiquity. It is a "sylvan historian" telling us a story, which the poet suggests by a series of questions. Who are these gods or men painted on the urn? Who are these reluctant maidens? What is this mad pursuit? Why the struggle to escape? What is the explanation for the presence of musical instruments? Why this mad ecstasy?
Imagined melodies are lovelier than those heard by human ears. Therefore the poet insists the musician pictured on the urn to play on. His song can never end nor the trees ever shed their leaves. The lover on the urn can never kiss her beloved, but the poet consoles his mind by saying that the boy should not be disappointed because his beloved can never lose her beauty. The trees are happy because its can never lose its leaves and also the musician is happy for his playing music which will remain forever new. The lovers on the urn enjoy a love that will stay forever young, more beautiful than actual love which eventually brings frustration and dissatisfaction.
In the first three stanzas Keats draws the perfection of the urn. But In the last two stanzas Keats portrays that though the art over the urn is beautiful and perfect; the urn is ultimately an object. Here the poet shows the limitation of the urn and compared its perfect art with our imperfect human life. In the fourth stanza Keats address the urn and asks who are the people coming to perform a sacrifice? To what reason does the priest lead a...