english lecture (ode on a grecianovember 25, 2010
John Keats: Ode Upon a Grecian Urn
On the Board:
•Doctrine of Recollection
•Pastoral: Classical, Christian
Classical Greece: Urn Makers>Urn>Keats>Ode>Reader :21st Century Canada
- There is a belief that we come with a knowledge of truths, but as we age we lose our
memories of these truths. This idea that children have this knowledge of the world that
adults don’t (In U.S.A there are lots of drawings portraying children with big, all seeing
eyes to show this idea)
- We looked at Wordsworths “Ode: Intimation of Immortality” p.1541. As time
goes by the physical gives way to the metaphysical. Contentment replaces
the glow, splendor and vision that a child has of the world. Children have
some special insight which is lost to us as adults.
- Platonic Forms and Platonic Ladder. Works in an upward movement. You get to love
one particular poetic landscape; you then will remember the beauteous forms of that
landscape and from that you build up an ideal landscape. This ladder takes you upwards
to ideal forms which exists in a remote world that we can remember slightly. Building
greater sense of abstraction we might call goodness. So that’s the doctrine of the ladder
ascending towards these ideal abstractions
- Platonic Triad:
- There are these three special abstractions we should focus on in our life:
goodness, truth and beauty. The ideal person has achieved a balance and
understanding of these three things and appreciates how they fit together.
Wordsworth and Keats is saturated in Platonism.
Ode on a Grecian Urn (1819-1820)
- Platonism became enormously influential in 19th century especially among people who
placed supreme value on art and beauty, who saw beauty to be the supreme thing to
strive for. Beauty is the supreme criterium for making judgements. If you regard english lecture (ode on a grecian urnovember 25, 2010
something as beautiful you regard it as worth protecting. You can fix the whole moral
system on the defense of beauty.
- It has taken good out of the triad. Beauty becomes truth, truth becomes beauty. You
throw out morality and in the 19th century this idea of putting morality to one side had
enormous appeal to : those who were in rebellion against middle class morality, those
who viewed middle class values as restrictive, repressive. And the people who were
repulsed by the ugliness they saw around them, the machinery/buildings/furniture and
said it was hideous, this is losing beauty. They wanted to go back to classical ideas of
beauty; not contaminated by christian morality. These people impose aestheticism (art
for art’s sake)
- Art shouldn’t be written for any reason other than for itself, to create a beautiful
thing that can be enjoyed just for it’s beauty
- Oscar Wilde tried to argue that art was above morality; that art was above
morality; they took him to court and eventually he had to say that he was wrong.
He died in France imprisoned.
- Keats began this movement
- It’s difficult to tell if the speaker admires the urn or has contempt towards it. Whether
he admires that it stands for classical beauty, or whether he sees it as an artifact of no
importance. Does the speaker look up to the urn as an ideal or down on it as
- Maybe this poem is supposed to be so difficult to figure out
- Ode ON a Grecian Urn: Yes it’s about a grecian urn, but it’s written ON paper. There is
this gap opening up between the urn and the poem. You can write about the urn, but you
can never meld that writing into the urn.
- The urn is static, just sits there. A poem needs to be read, move in time to have any
meaning. Contast between this static object and the fact that language has to move in
time. Idea of getting congruency between the two is difficult, and the poem seems to
acknowledge that from the beginning.
- The urn is gender female, ‘unravish’d’ the animal is female too.
- Keats admits that the poetry, however beautiful, however sweet, can never express the