5/26/2019

Superiority of Art over Life in Keats's poem "Ode on Grecian Urn".


Ode on a Grecian Urn is a famous poem by John Keats. It deals with art and life. The urn is a piece of art around the rim of which there are engraved the pictures of the youth and maidens lover and beloved, piper, trees etc.

The urn, by virtue of its permanent virtue, has immortalized these objects carved on it. Keats affirms the power of imagination over reality through the picture of a piper piping his flute. The silent
music coming out of the pipe is more appealing to him than all verbal music. The music heard by the physical ears may be sweet but there is a limit to its sweetness. On the contrary, the music not actually produced is more entertaining than real music on account of its breathing a note of permanence and flawless perfection.

Keats emphasises permanence of art against the transitoriness of human life through the picture of the lover who is always trying to kiss his beloved but he is unable to kiss her because he is only a
picture on the urn. The poet consoles the lover that he should not be frustrated because his beloved will never loss her beauty and he will never lose his passion for her. But in real life young ladies lose their youth in course of time and the passion of love cools down after fruition. The over gratification of the desire of the flesh and blood meets with a sad end:
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead and a parching tongue.

Keats observes the natural scenes depicted on the external surface of the Grecian urn. He finds that the nature wears a festive look. It seems the spring season is prevailing over the nature. All the
trees are leafy and green with intense leaves. The poet says that the trees and the branches of the trees are happy because they will never lose their leaves and the spring season will never take farewell from the nature depicted on the external surface of the Grecian urn. But in real life trees cannot attain permanence. They shed their leaves with the passage of time.

According to Keats, art is immortal. It exists while all the earthly things are subject to decay. We, the human beings, will be perished
by the course of time. Time passes on and leaves its impression on our body. Ultimately, we die and make a flight to the other world. But the Grecian urn is ever lasting. It will never grow old. When the present generation will lose the freshness and vigour of youth with the arrival of the old age, the urn will remain.unchanged by old age. The painting on the urn will always be inspiring and stimulating. It will stimulate our feelings for ever and ever, and convey the great
lesson-

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-that is all.

Thus, superficially it seems that Keats establishes the superiority of art over life in Ode on a Grecian Urn. But if we look deep into the poem we find the idea of balance and harmony. In the world of the art there is no change and without change there can be no progress. In the poem Keats does not assert the supremacy of art over life, but
simply balances one against the other. He seems to be attracted as
much by the passion that one experiences in real life as by the
permanence of the urn. According to Patterson, "Thus Keats continues to toy with his dual matter, but he neither asserts nor
implies that lasting permanence is superior to transient passion."

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