John Keats

John Keats 1795-1821
Ode to a Grecian Urn (1819)
John Keats 1795-1821
John Keats, one of the greatest
English poets and a major figure in
the Romantic movement, was born in
1795 in Moorefield, London. His
father died when he was eight and
his mother when he was 14; these
sad circumstances drew him
particularly close to his two brothers,
George and Tom, and his sister
Keats was well educated at a school
in Enfield, where he began a Keats
was well educated at a school in
Enfield, where he began a translation
of Virgil's Aeneid. In 1810 he was
apprenticed to an apothecary-surgeon.
His first attempts at writing poetry
date from about 1814, and include an
`Imitation' of the Elizabethan poet
Edmund Spenser.
• In 1815 he left his apprenticeship and
became a student at Guy's Hospital,
London; one year later, he abandoned
the profession of medicine for poetry.
Keats' first volume of poems was
published in 1817. It attracted some
good reviews, but these were
followed by the first of several harsh
attacks by the influential Blackwood's
Magazine. Undeterred, he pressed on
with his poem `Endymion', which was
published in the spring of the
following year.
Keats toured the north of England and
Scotland in the summer of 1818,
returning home to nurse his brother
Tom, who was ill with tuberculosis.
After Tom's death in December he
moved into a friend's house in
Hampstead, now known as Keats
There he met and fell deeply in love
with a young neighbour, Fanny
Brawne. During the following year,
despite ill health and financial
problems, he wrote an astonishing
amount of poetry, including `The Eve
of St Agnes', 'La Belle Dame sans
Merci', `Ode to a Nightingale' and
`To Autumn'.
His second volume of poems
appeared in July 1820; soon
afterwards, by now very ill with
tuberculosis, he set off with a friend
to Italy, where he died the following
Keats and his friend Joseph Severn
arrived in Rome, after an arduous
journey, in November 1820. They
found lodgings in a house near the
Spanish Steps. Keats rallied a little at
first, and was able to take gentle
walks and rides, but by early
December he was confined to bed,
extremely ill with a high fever.
Severn nursed him devotedly
throughout the next few distressing
and painful weeks. Keats died
peacefully, clasping his friend's hand,
on 23 February 1821.
Ode to a Nightingale
Ode to a Nightingale - Background
 Ode to a Nightingale is a poem by John
Keats. Written in May, 1819, it was first
published in “Annals of the Fine Arts” in
July of the same year. Referred to by critics
of the time as "the longest and most
personal of the odes," the poem describes
Keats” journey into the state of Negative
Capability. The poem explores the themes
of nature, transience and mortality, the
latter being the most personal to Keats,
making as he does a direct reference to the
death in 1818 of his brother, Tom.
Ode to a Nightingale - Form
The ode consists of eight stanzas,
each containing ten lines. The rhyme
scheme (ababcdecde) has a link to
the Sonnet form. The poet makes use
of enjambment between stanzas two
and three.
Ode to a Nightingale - Imagery
John Keats was one of the preeminent Romantic poets who was
influenced by Greek Classical
literature and mythology. In his
poem “Ode to a Nightingale”, which
he writes after the death of his
younger brother, he uses imagery to
explicate his pain.
Ode to a Nightingale - Imagery
Keats is primarily using images to
give expression to the pain and
suffering. At the same time, he is
using imagery to contrast the
magical impact of melodious music of
a nightingale. Here, Keats takes
poetic license. While he addresses
the nightingale as an individual bird,
the implication of “thou immortal”
bird is that he is addressing the
Ode to a Nightingale - Imagery
 There is a continuous image of jump from
self to bird, and from bird to self. This is
followed be an image wherein Keats joins
the bird with the help of Bacchus. The
classical allusion to Bacchus creates an
image of rollicking fun and gaiety.The “fullthroated ease” leads Keats to the dream of
an extremely enjoyable summer of “Dance
and Provencal song, and sun burnt mirth”.
This image of dance, music, and rollicking
fun is heightened by the contrasting
reference to human misery, “weariness, the
fever and the fret”.
Ode to a Nightingale - Imagery
In this world “where men sit and
hear each other groan” is the exact
opposite of dance, song and
happiness. The image of human
misery is very profound when Keats
alludes to his brother’s death:
"Where youth grows pale , and
spectre-thin and dies; Where but to
think is to be full of sorrow and
leaden-eyed despairs".
Ode to a Nightingale - Imagery
 This image, of the youth dying and
transient nature of love, is further
heightened by the image of Keats”
predicting his own death. As the poem
progresses, Keats associates his death with
the song. The image used by Keats of a
human body becoming a clod of earth, the
human body becoming one with the earth
creates a vision of coffin being lowered into
grave and covered by shovels of earth, the
human body becoming one with earth and
all the time sweet music being produced by
the nightingale.
Ode to a Nightingale - Imagery
 Hardly is this image digested by the reader
that a new image is created and an
extremely powerful at that! We see
possibly a castle on the rocky shores with
the sea waves rising up, and slapping the
walls of the castle; and slowly, as if by
magic, the windows open.The image of the
windows opening on stormy sea is
evocative of some fairy princess being
imprisoned by some ogre. This image
works like a bell and the poet is tossed
back to the world of reality. Keats is left
wondering at his state - “wake or sleep”.
Ode to a Nightingale - Imagery
The whole poem can be seen as a
movement of images right from the
beginning to the end. Each image
heightens the feeling that changes
from sheer pain and numbness to
fairy lands and a bell tolling back to
Ode to a Nightingale - Mortality
Both the third and sixth stanzas
contain references to mortality. The
third stanza discusses the death of
his brother, Tom, while the sixth
expresses Keats’s own fear of death.
"Half in love with easeful death,"
found in the sixth stanza, shows his
fear, not of death, but of a slow,
painful one from Consumption
Ode on Grecian Urn
Ode on Grecian Urn
 Introduction:
1.)Written in 1819, 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'
was the third of the five 'great odes' of
1819, which are generally believed to have
been written in the following order Psyche, Nightingale, Grecian Urn,
Melancholy, and Autumn. Of the five,
Grecian Urn and Melancholy are merely
dated '1819'.
2.)This ode contains the most discussed two
lines in all of Keats's poetry - '"Beauty is
truth, truth beauty," - that is all/Ye know
on earth, and all ye need to know.' The
exact meaning of those lines is disputed by
Ode on Grecian Urn
In the first stanza, the speaker
stands before an ancient Grecian urn
and addresses it. He is preoccupied
with its depiction of pictures frozen
in time.
It is the "still unravish'd bride of
quietness," the "foster-child of
silence and slow time." He also
describes the urn as a "historian"
that can tell a story. He wonders
about the figures on the side of the
urn and asks what legend they depict
and from where they come.
Ode on Grecian Urn
He looks at a picture that seems
to depict a group of men
pursuing a group of women and
wonders what their story could
be: "What mad pursuit? What
struggle to escape? / What
pipes and timbrels? What wild
Ode on Grecian Urn
 In the second stanza, the speaker looks at
another picture on the urn, this time of a
young man playing a pipe, lying with his
lover beneath a glade of trees.
 The speaker says that the piper's
"unheard" melodies are sweeter than
mortal melodies because they are
unaffected by time.
 He tells the youth that, though he can
never kiss his lover because he is frozen in
time, he should not grieve, because her
beauty will never fade.
Ode on Grecian Urn
 In the third stanza, he looks at the trees
surrounding the lovers and feels happy that
they will never shed their leaves.
 He is happy for the piper because his songs
will be "for ever new," and happy that the
love of the boy and the girl will last forever,
unlike mortal love, which lapses into
"breathing human passion" and eventually
vanishes, leaving behind only a "burning
forehead, and a parching tongue."
Ode on Grecian Urn
 In the fourth stanza, the speaker examines
another picture on the urn, this one of a
group of villagers leading a heifer to be
sacrificed. He wonders where they are
going ("To what green altar, O mysterious
priest...") and from where they have come.
 He imagines their little town, empty of all
its citizens, and tells it that its streets will
"for evermore" be silent, for those who
have left it, frozen on the urn, will never
Ode on Grecian Urn
In the final stanza, the speaker again
addresses the urn itself, saying that
it, like Eternity, "doth tease us out of
" He thinks that when his generation
is long dead, the urn will remain,
telling future generations its
enigmatic lesson: "Beauty is truth,
truth beauty." The speaker says that
that is the only thing the urn knows
and the only thing it needs to know.
Ode on Grecian Urn
It is true that the speaker shows a
certain kind of progress in his
successive attempts to engage with
the urn. His idle curiosity in the first
attempt gives way to a more deeply
felt identification in the second, and
in the third, the speaker leaves his
own concerns behind and thinks of
the processional purely on its own
terms, thinking of the "little town"
with a real and generous feeling.
Ode on Grecian Urn
But each attempt ultimately
ends in failure. The third
attempt fails simply because
there is nothing more to say-once the speaker confronts the
silence and eternal emptiness of
the little town, he has reached
the limit of static art; on this
subject, at least, there is
nothing more the urn can tell
Ode on Grecian Urn
 In the final stanza, the speaker presents
the conclusions drawn from his three
attempts to engage with the urn. He is
overwhelmed by its existence outside of
temporal change, with its ability to "tease"
him "out of thought / As doth eternity.
 " If human life is a succession of "hungry
generations," as the speaker suggests in
"Nightingale," the urn is a separate and
self-contained world. It can be a "friend to
man," as the speaker says, but it cannot be
mortal; the kind of aesthetic connection the
speaker experiences with the urn is
ultimately insufficient to human life.
Ode on Grecian Urn
The final two lines, in which the
speaker imagines the urn speaking
its message to mankind--"Beauty is
truth, truth beauty," have proved
among the most difficult to interpret
in the Keats canon.
After the urn utters the enigmatic
phrase "Beauty is truth, truth
beauty," no one can say for sure who
"speaks" the conclusion, "that is all /
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to
Ode on Grecian Urn
It could be the speaker addressing
the urn, and it could be the urn
addressing mankind. If it is the
speaker addressing the urn, then it
would seem to indicate his
awareness of its limitations: The urn
may not need to know anything
beyond the equation of beauty and
truth, but the complications of
human life make it impossible for
such a simple and self-contained
phrase to express sufficiently
anything about necessary human
Ode on Grecian Urn
If it is the urn addressing mankind,
then the phrase has rather the
weight of an important lesson, as
though beyond all the complications
of human life, all human beings need
to know on earth is that beauty and
truth are one and the same. It is
largely a matter of personal
interpretation which reading to
Ode on a Grecian Urn
 "Ode on a Grecian Urn" follows the same
ode-stanza structure as the "Ode on
Melancholy," though it varies more the
rhyme scheme of the last three lines of
each stanza.
 Each of the five stanzas in "Grecian Urn" is
ten lines long, metered in a relatively
precise iambic pentameter, and divided into
a two part rhyme scheme, the last three
lines of which are variable. The first seven
lines of each stanza follow an ABABCDE
rhyme scheme, but the second occurrences
of the CDE sounds do not follow the same
Ode on Grecian Urn
In stanza one, lines seven
through ten are rhymed DCE; in
stanza two, CED; and in stanza
five, DCE, just as in stanza one.
As in other odes (especially
"Autumn" and "Melancholy"),
the two-part rhyme scheme (the
first part made of AB rhymes,
the second of CDE rhymes)
creates the sense of a two-part
thematic structure as well.
Ode on Grecian Urn
The first four lines of each
stanza roughly define the
subject of the stanza, and the
last six roughly explicate or
develop it. (As in other odes,
this is only a general rule, true
of some stanzas more than
others; stanzas such as the fifth
do not connect rhyme scheme
and thematic structure closely at
Ode on Melancholy
Ode on Melancholy
The three stanzas of the "Ode on
Melancholy" address the subject of
how to cope with sadness.
Ode on Melancholy
The first stanza tells what not to do:
The sufferer should not "go to
Lethe," or forget their sadness.
※For shade to shade will come too
drowsily, And drown the wakeful
anguish of the soul. (Line9-10)
Ode on Melancholy
In the second stanza, the speaker
tells the sufferer what to do in place
of the things he forbade in the first
stanza. When afflicted with "the
melancholy fit," the sufferer should
instead overwhelm his sorrow with
natural beauty, glutting it on the
morning rose, "on the rainbow of the
salt sand-wave," or in the eyes of his
Ode on Melancholy
 Summary
In the third stanza, the speaker explains these
injunctions, saying that pleasure and pain are
inextricably linked: Beauty must die, joy is fleeting,
and the flower of pleasure is forever.
※ “Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips." The
speaker says that the shrine of melancholy is inside
the "temple of Delight," but that it is only visible if
one can overwhelm oneself with joy until it reveals
its center of sadness, by "burst[ing] Joy's grape
against his palate fine." The man who can do this
shall "taste the sadness" of melancholy's might and
"be among her cloudy trophies hung."
Ode on Melancholy
Vocabulary and Allusions
 Stanza I
Line 1, Lethe: river in the underworld Hades in which
souls about to be reborn bathed to forget
the past; hence, river of forgetfulness.
Line 2, wolf's-bane: poison
Line 4, nightshade: poison
Proserpine: the queen of the underworld.
Proserpine was kidnapped by Pluto
and taken to Hades, his kingdom. Her
mother Demeter, the goddess of
fertility and grain, grieve for her loss
and the earth became sterile.
Line 5, yew-berries: symbol of mourning. The yew is
traditionally associated with mourning.
rosary: prayer beads.
Ode on Melancholy
Vocabulary and Allusions
 Stanza I
Line 6, beetle: The Egyptians regarded the
beetle as sacred; as a symbol of
resurrection, a jewel-beetle or
scarab was placed in tombs.
death-moth: the death's head moth, so
called because its markings
resemble a human skull.
Line 7, Psyche: in Greek, the soul or mind as
well as butterfly (used as its
Line 8, mysteries: secret rites.
Ode on Melancholy
Vocabulary and Allusions
 Stanza III
Line 8, palate: the roof of the mouth, hence, the
sense of taste; sometimes,
intellectual or aesthetic taste.
fine: refined, sensitive.
Ode on Melancholy
"Ode on Melancholy," the shortest of
Keats's odes, is written in a very regular
form that matches its logical,
argumentative thematic structure. Each
stanza is ten lines long and metered in a
relatively precise iambic pentameter. The
first two stanzas, offering advice to the
sufferer, follow the same rhyme scheme,
ABABCDECDE; the third, which explains the
advice, varies the ending slightly, following
a scheme of ABABCDEDCE, so that the
rhymes of the eighth and ninth lines are
reversed in order from the previous two