Ode to Grecian Urn Summary, a poem by John Keats
John Keats calls the Grecian Urn a bride which is not touched by anyone. The stone has remained silent in the passing years of history and no historian could narrate a better story than that of the poet. There is some legendary figure, a human, a god and perhaps both that urn in the valley or regions of Arcady. There are some figures on the urn and the poet speculates if they were humans or gods. There are women too. There are men in pursuit of women and the poet deems it a "mad pursuit". The poet imagines that the women would certainly struggle to escape. The poet can also see musical instruments like "pipes and timbrels". Keats considers it a "wild ecstasy" because the height of this pleasure would have neither limit nor an end to it.
Keats declares that
"Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
He would relish the pleasure of looking at the urn and enjoying the history of beauty engraved onto the stone. Music has a sensual appeal to all the lovers of music but Keats would wish to imagine unheard musical charm. He wishes to encourage the pipers in the urn to "play on" for the spiritual appeasement of the deities they were played for. He idealizes the happy state of the civilization in the urn. The songs would never end. The trees would never be bare. There is a ripple of sorrowful thinking that the lovers cannot kiss though they are very close. But the beloved would never "fade" and they can love forever.
The leaves of these trees can never fall and the spring season would ever abide here in the urn. The musicians would keep on piping new song; neither the song will become old nor would it end tire them. It is "more happy love" because it will remain young and enjoyable forever. The poet can visualize the chasing lovers and the struggling beloveds; they must be panting and the poet can understand their happy lot of love's pursuit which would remain the same with heated forehead and dried tongues.
The poet spots a group of people that seem to have been there for sacrifice. Then the fancy of the poet would relate stories of some green altar and "mysterious priest". The group is moving with a heifer laden with garlands. The engraving on the urn has a town with water nearby. The poet tries to think of the name. He also thinks if it is near some river or sea. The imaginary city and its fortress might have been built amid strong and peaceful surroundings. The poet thinks that the city is empty because all the people have come out for either celebration on some pious day. He addresses the town and declares that it would ever remain silent and desolate.
He titles the urn with "fair attitude" and a breed of civilization of marble while the forest branches and weeds have partly covered the stone. The stone and the engravings on it do tease the poet to think forever. He calls the urn "cold pastoral" for its rural scenery and silent race. Then the poet realizes that with the passage of time the poet and his generation would die and the urn shall remain there in the midst of all the troubles and woes of man. The race on the urn would ever be a happy lot and it shall keep reminding the poet and the humans that beauty is the only truth which can survive the onslaught of time.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."