Ode on a Grecian Urn Summary & Analysis by John Keats

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"Ode on a Grecian Urn" was written by the influential English poet John Keats in 1819. It is a complex, mysterious poem with a disarmingly simple set-up: an undefined speaker looks at a Grecian urn, which is decorated with evocative images of rustic and rural life in ancient Greece. These scenes fascinate, mystify, and excite the speaker in equal measure—they seem to have captured life in its fullness, yet are frozen in time. The speaker's response shifts through different moods, and ultimately the urn provokes questions more than it provides answers. The poem's ending has been and remains the subject of varied interpretation. The urn seems to tell the speaker—and, in turn, the reader—that truth and beauty are one and the same. Keats wrote this poem in a great burst of creativity that also produced his other famous odes (e.g. "Ode to a Nightingale"). Though this poem was not well-received in Keats' day, it has gone on to become one of the most celebrated in the English language.

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