The first stanza of Keats' poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, opens to a scene in which a man is talking to a Grecian urn. He remarks upon the profound silence of the urn, and its youthfulness, despite its age. Though the urn was born of Greek hands, it was fostered by time and silence, untouched and undiscovered for many years. He then refers to the urn as a historian who tells a story that is 'flowery' in every sense of the word; it is sweet and beautiful, it is involved, and it is literally flowery, in that the scene is of nature. The man then examines the story that the urn tells. It is one of men and gods and beautiful maidens, some pursuing and others pursued. It is one involving music and pure carnal joy.
Stanza two begins by describing the music that the instruments painted on the urn produce, which though unheard, is sweeter than any other music, as it plays on, without end, a song that the spirit alone can hear. The music comes from the fair youth painted under the cover of trees, and he shall never stop his playing, nor shall the trees lose their leaves with a change of season. The young man who pursues a lovely woman will never have his kiss. They are all forever frozen in one instant of time.
In stanza three, the man panegyrizes the eternal Spring, and the trees that shall remain verdant. And though the song flowing from the youth's pipes never changes, it is perpetually new to the world depicted upon the urn. He then describes the bodies of the young women which remain, and will always remain, warm and young, ready to be enjoyed, panting in sexual ecstasy. He looks down upon this scene and is overcome with a sorrow in his heart, desiring the love that the urn encapsulates.
The fourth stanza calls upon a third scene upon the urn. There are people making their way to an animal sacrifice. A priest leads a lowing heifer to a green altar. Behind the pair follow the inhabitants of a small riverside or seaside or mountain village, all...