Grecian Urn Ending: What the h-double toothpicks?

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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Alright

Postby MonroeDoctrine » Fri Dec 09, 2005 7:11 am

Well it seems that the people in this forum have finally approached a discussion about a great poem by Keats.

Here is my hypothesis:
It is clear that the Urn doesn't actually "say" anything at least not literally(hence heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter). Yet the Urn is able to move the mind that witnesses the art that is wrought on it. Any real classical form of art can transmit an idea to a human being throughout many generations; in a sense what Keats is trying to show, is that mankind can actually transmit ideas through art. That's why within the Urn it is the "human passion" that is communicated. Remember the only thing that survives, "when old age shall this generation waste," shall be the ideas that are transmitted. But remember the ones that are eternal are usually those that are truthful and beautiful.

Cold Pastoral! When old age shall this generation waste;
Thou shalt remain in midst of other woe than ours;
a friend to man;To Whom thou sayest "Truth is Beauty, Beauty is Truth." That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Sun Dec 11, 2005 10:01 pm

Despondence wrote:Maybe there is no answer, or maybe there are many different answers, all equally valid. We know from his letters that Keats was a deeply philosophical person. Imagine, if instead it had been a totally obvious and trivial allusion wrapping up that ode - you'd probably never have given it a second thought. As it stands, it is obscure at best, but I think that's how Keats intended it. For centuries, that harmless little blurb has made people think about it, and that's the important thing!

This thought actually crossed my mind. Maybe Keats is purposely obscuring the speaker. Maybe he wants us to ponder the eternal nature of beauty. . . well, eternally ;)

Adding to this theory: Keats did say that "poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul,
and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject." I think that if Keats had purposely made those last lines more obvious, he would be violating his own principle. He would be forcing an interpretation upon us, which would definitely feel obtrusive coming from such an atmospheric, sensory poem.

Instead of having that kind of blunt and artificial moralizing, we have an ending that floats off into the air. I guess we can compare it to the ending of "Nightingale", which leaves us with a question that we're not meant to answer. The speaker at the end of "Grecian Urn" is also leaving us with a question, but one that is more implied. Who is the unnamed speaker? Does the message change depending on who is speaking? Are we even supposed to know?



I have images in my mind right now of Keats in the resplendent garden of the afterlife, sitting with his glass of claret in the sunshine and laughing to himself at we mere mortals down here agonizing over his two little lines ;)
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Postby Saturn » Sun Dec 11, 2005 10:45 pm

The artists always have the last laugh at the critics.

Whoever the speaker is I don't know for sure; or to be honest, care.

The thought is all that remains.

The statement [or is it a rhetorical question] is what is important, not WHO is asking it.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Dec 12, 2005 12:37 am

Amen.
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Yes Ambiguous mystical No

Postby MonroeDoctrine » Mon Dec 12, 2005 11:15 pm

Yes all great poetry has a deep and ambiguous meaning; however the meaning isn't completely mystical or unknowable. Keats is obviously using a real language and an actually progression of ideas and words that make sense when one uses reason.
Although Keats isn't making it clear what exactly he means by truth and beauty he is saying something. He's not just vomitting rethoric like a bad linguistics major; he wants to say something! What we can agree on is that something is being said by someone. And Keats as a humanist wants to communicate that something:

More happy, happy love! Forever warm and still to be enjoyed
Forever panting and forever young, all breathing human passion far above
That leaves a heart high sorrowful and cloyd, a burning forhead and a parching tongue.
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Postby Michael Emmanuel » Thu May 11, 2006 5:43 pm

“Poetry should please by a fine excess and not by singularity. It should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance.” JK

This is a good topic and I would like to add my thoughts although it's been a while since anyone's commented.

In my thinking there should be no ambiguity here. Keats sets forth his highest and most sublime thought with the ending to Grecian Urn.

While in all the scenes within the poem we may have many emotions and interpretations as we do with the scenes from our lifes and are affected by them in various ways, what may give us a path to wisdom as would a friend's advice, is remembering that Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, whatever else we may believe, think, feel. That which we find beautiful tells us that. That which we find true tells us that.

That is the open door which no man can shut, that is the golden fleece, that is the way, the truth, the light. Up until then we are blind to what is and somewhat at the mercy of our perceptions which change and hopefully grow but not necessarily as we get older and have all those experiences depicted on the Urn.

No one may be exempt from temporal life, but one who comes to realize through Beauty we may know truth and like-wise through truth beauty and therefore be in the world but not of it, connected to what we truly are and will always be.
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Postby dks » Thu May 11, 2006 7:05 pm

Michael Emmanuel wrote:“Poetry should please by a fine excess and not by singularity. It should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance.” JK

This is a good topic and I would like to add my thoughts although it's been a while since anyone's commented.

In my thinking there should be no ambiguity here. Keats sets forth his highest and most sublime thought with the ending to Grecian Urn.


I heartily agree with you here. Thanks for posting that quote by him, as it is an extremely important one in understanding Keats's idea on art being the bridge and initial foot path to a higher 'other worldly' existence.

See Peter J. Sorensen's essay on the Grecian Urn--in the Keats-Shelley Review 1993-1994. It talks exclusively about the enigmatic ending of this great ode within a Neoplatonic vein--all associated with those "heard" and "unheard melodies" Keats talks about--these concepts are actually integrations of his philosophies about the poetic process, ie.) Negative Capability, Disinterestedness, Vale of Soul making, and the annhilated, "camelion" Poet--all of these are tools to help amalgamate the real, corporeal world and the "other" incorporeal world in which one can get to via "flight of fancy." :wink:
"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of Imagination."
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Postby Jov » Sun May 28, 2006 5:07 am

dks wrote:
Michael Emmanuel wrote:“Poetry should please by a fine excess and not by singularity. It should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance.” JK

This is a good topic and I would like to add my thoughts although it's been a while since anyone's commented.

In my thinking there should be no ambiguity here. Keats sets forth his highest and most sublime thought with the ending to Grecian Urn.


I heartily agree with you here. Thanks for posting that quote by him, as it is an extremely important one in understanding Keats's idea on art being the bridge and initial foot path to a higher 'other worldly' existence.

See Peter J. Sorensen's essay on the Grecian Urn--in the Keats-Shelley Review 1993-1994. It talks exclusively about the enigmatic ending of this great ode within a Neoplatonic vein--all associated with those "heard" and "unheard melodies" Keats talks about--these concepts are actually integrations of his philosophies about the poetic process, ie.) Negative Capability, Disinterestedness, Vale of Soul making, and the annhilated, "camelion" Poet--all of these are tools to help amalgamate the real, corporeal world and the "other" incorporeal world in which one can get to via "flight of fancy." :wink:


With relation to your reference to Negative Capability, I would say that within Grecian Urn, Keats makes many allusions to his theory of Negative Capability. First, the urn itself is a portrayal of Neg. Cap. as the objects and actions depicted on the urn are in a state of Neg. Cap. As we all know, negative capability is the: "capabl[ity] of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason" - JK, Letter - December, 1817. The depictions on the urn are in this state for they have a potential to carry through, yet they never carry through - since they are in this state of potential on the urn. As in priest leading the heifer to the sacrifice - as seen on the urn, the sacrifice never happens. It has the potential to happen because of the depiction, yet this is also why it will never happen.

Keats' final lines in Grecian Urn embodies all of the Negative Capability that we see in the poem. It says simply that Truth and Beauty are interrelated, and that is all we need to know. I would instead say that the urn embodies this interrelation of truth and beauty in its portrayal of negative capability, and that it isn't exactly "spoken" in the conventional sense, but the meaning is conveyed through one's observation of the urn.

Any comments? :D
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Postby dks » Mon May 29, 2006 5:43 am

I would say you are right.

I would also add and expound on my earlier post that the urn also signifies life through art...Keats used that thematic element of art and the frozen picture in time ie.) Bright Star sonnet--yet within this frozen ideal (sensation plane) is the painful but necessary truth that life must progress and go on in order to experience it and "feel...the fall and swell of [his] true love's ripening breast."

Keats wanted to "fade away and leave the world unseen" or "cease to be" in a sort of netherworld of sensation and be "too happy in happiness" like the nightingale--who resides in the world of Negative Capability by natural circumstance--but at that last, profoundly sad moment, he always knows somehow that he must reconcile this deep desire to utterly diffuse and forsake thought with the goings on of painful life--thinking and wondering and irritably reaching--in order to form that long sought after identity.
"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of Imagination."
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Postby soumya » Mon May 29, 2006 12:34 pm

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 know." 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 knowledge. 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 accept.
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Postby dks » Mon May 29, 2006 10:26 pm

I tend to agree with that, Soumya. That is a part of Keats's genious ability to champion that certain brand of Romantic 'indeterminacy'--that in itself helps to fully reinforce all of his successive poetic philosophies--like Neg. Cap., Disinterestedness, Vale of Soul Making, and the annhilated, Camelion Poet.

In short, I think Keats would say: leave that sensation alone, damnit! Let is wash over you, be dumb and wonder for moments before that spoiling hour creeps up, as it always will... :wink:
"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of Imagination."
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The best way to understand!

Postby MonroeDoctrine » Wed May 31, 2006 9:09 pm

The best way to understand the last lines in the Keats poem beyond just speculating; is to live the principle. If one doesn't live truth and beauty I doubt one shall understand the poem. In most cases those that live the principle end up making a big imprint on future human beings!


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Postby dks » Thu Jun 01, 2006 4:34 am

I love the download, MD--it's beautiful. :wink:
"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections and the Truth of Imagination."
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Postby redan » Fri Jun 02, 2006 7:13 am

Beauty is thankless [sans merci]. Everything is false, or a lie, a fiction. [Truth is the Supreme Fiction, madam.] Everything is dead. Being "alive" is only a Special Case of being dead. [Can you handle this Truth?] "need to know" is a BASIS, a pecking order, a hierarchy. The spy master sends the assasin [assasin and hashish are the same word] to Prague to murder whomever he finds in a certain hotel room on a certain date at a certain hour [an enemy agent code name: Kafka]. Keats' puppet-master is a certain Moneta [code name]. Keats is employed by the Ministry as a publicist, a spin-doctor. The Ministry is aware of and afraid of his burgeoning prodigious talent. A Warrent for his Death has been issued.

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Postby Saturn » Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:16 am

redan wrote:Beauty is thankless [sans merci]. Everything is false, or a lie, a fiction. [Truth is the Supreme Fiction, madam.] Everything is dead. Being "alive" is only a Special Case of being dead. [Can you handle this Truth?] "need to know" is a BASIS, a pecking order, a hierarchy. The spy master sends the assasin [assasin and hashish are the same word] to Prague to murder whomever he finds in a certain hotel room on a certain date at a certain hour [an enemy agent code name: Kafka]. Keats' puppet-master is a certain Moneta [code name]. Keats is employed by the Ministry as a publicist, a spin-doctor. The Ministry is aware of and afraid of his burgeoning prodigious talent. A Warrent for his Death has been issued.

-redan


:?: :shock: :roll: :lol: :?
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