“Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “The Second Coming,”

Three Poems Formalists Love
“Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “The
Second Coming,” and “Ozymandias”
Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” p.
• In this poem, the author is addressing an Ode to a
piece of painted Greek pottery.
• Ok, so what’s an “ode”? An Ode, according to the
Bedford glossary, is "A relatively long, serious,
and usually meditative lyric poem that treats a
noble or otherwise elevated subject in a dignified
and calm manner."
• Why is Keats talking to a piece of pottery?
Apostrophe, or addressing a poem to an inanimate
object, was a common practice, and a means by
which the poet could reflect on some facet of the
human experience.
The Situation of “Ode on a Grecian
• The poet contemplates the urn, probably in a
museum, that has several different scenes painted
on it.
• One scene is of a young man about to kiss a
young woman while musicians play nearby
(There may also be a scene of one lone pipe
player, depending on how you interpret certain
• One scene is of a group of worshippers leading a
cow to be sacrificed.
Questions about “Ode on a Grecian
• Think of a time when you have been to a museum
and looked at something really old. What was it?
What questions did you have about it? What was
it like having a piece of history in front of you?
This is the same situation Keats was recalling
when he wrote the poem.
• What questions does the urn inspire in Keats?
• What answers or conclusions, if any, does he
reach by the end of the poem? What do you make
of those last two (much debated) lines?
Yeats’ “The Second Coming” p.
This poem relies heavily on Christian imagery. The
dominant image is of the second coming of
Christ, a time that is supposed to usher in the end
of the world and a new era of peace for the
faithful in heaven. This poem radically upsets
those expectations.
• Notice the “twenty centuries” in line 19, roughly
the amount of time between the birth of Christ
and the writing of this poem.
• Notice the beast slouching towards Bethlehem in
line 22, the city in which Christ was born.
“The Second Coming” p. 734
• In the first 8 lines, Yeats (pronounced “Yates”)
describes what he sees as the state of the world, and it
is an apocalyptic vision. (An apocalypse can mean
either the End Times/Second Coming described in
Revelation in the Bible, or it can mean the revealing of
some secret knowledge that has been hidden. This
poem is playing on both meanings.)
• In the second stanza, he describes an image he says is
from the “Spiritus Mundi,” which is like a collective
human consciousness, of something that is coming.
And it’s not pleasant.
Introduction to Irony
• Irony occurs when "a discrepancy exists
between two levels of meaning and experience."
– Dramatic irony: The reader knows something the
characters don’t.
– Situational Irony: The outcome of a situation
drastically upsets readers’ expectations.
– Verbal Irony: Saying one thing and meaning another.
(Sarcasm is an example of this.)
• The section on irony is on p. 499 of your
"Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley p.
• A couple of difficult words before we start:
– Trunkless: In this case, a body lacking a torso
– Visage: Face
• How does the author create irony here? What
specific words does he use that make the poem
particularly ironic? Be sure to tell me how the
words you choose answer this question.
• Why did Ozymandias (the guy who the statue is
of) want people to "despair"?
• Why might people still "despair" when they see
the statue, but for different reasons?