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Beauty Is Truth


“Beauty Is Truth, Truth beauty” As one of the representative Romanticist poets, John Keats composes the greatest odes of English Literature. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”, which comes from his famous poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, is surely the most famous metaphysical equation. Inevitably, my understanding of this poem begins from this final couplet. It is obvious that the “Beauty” and “Truth” in Keats’s mind are interchangeable, and they are the ultimate pursuit of every artist and the work of art. In the first stanza, Keats uses three different chorological concepts to describe a subtle and eternal beauty: the present “still unravish’d bride”, the past “sylvan historian” and the future “foster-child”. So whenever in the past, present or future, the pictures on the urn will never disappear. Abstractly speaking, the beauty of will last forever. And personally, I think this is the ode’s theme. In the stanza 2, the unheard melodies are sweeter than that we have ever heard. Only the people, who devotes to art totally, could have such a kind of feeling of supernatural ability to enjoy “This time the silent victory has the sound” realm. And also, the beautiful “fair youth” loves boldly, though he can never reach his lover’s lips. This is another kind of imaginary beauty. By repeating 6 “happy” quickly in the first 5 lines in stanza 3, the poet demands everybody, everything to be happy, including the trees that are alive in this picture. On the other hand, it is happiness that all the creatures on the urn ought to be feeling, the faces that “cannot fade”, the trees that “never bid the Spring adieu”, the piping songs “for ever new”. So at this time, the poet appreciates life not only from intoxicating with the art itself, but also from a sense of reality. Poet illustrates the truth of life in a surreal world. Stanza 4 leads us to a picture without so many passions in it, an imaginary background of the living creatures depicted in stanza 2 and 3. Now, the poet draws us back from dream of bliss and beauty, and shows us the reality as imperfect and coarse as it has been for the Grecian people and will always be for every human being. Stanza 5 gives an overview of the urn. It is interesting that the poet puts the eternity and the urn together as “teasing us out of thought”. After giving a lively picture of the stationary urn in a gradual way, the poet triggers the readers’ thinking by the last two lines—“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’” Personally, my interpretation is that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” is addressed to “ye”, both the youth on the urn and the readers. Although it seems like that the words are quoted from the urn, it is still possible that poet makes this statement out of his own thinking. Oscar Wilde said “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Truth sometimes means reality, while reality is usually not beautiful at all. Reality can be disappointing or cruel or ugly. Dickinson also side “I died for Beauty.” By choosing beauty to believe in as the total truth, we can even surpass the ugly part of reality. However, sometimes the beauty is covered with dust and the truth is veiled. From here, we can understand the poet’s eagerness to make the living as happy as possible in stanza 3, by repeating 6 times “happy”. He decides to see beauty, which is connected with happiness. It is why he uses the urn’s tone to make his statement “Beauty is truth, truth beauty…” Overall, “Ode to a Grecian Urn” depicts the writer describing the beauty interred in an ancient receptacle. A beauty that is timeless speaks of the ages past. We are forever trying to describe and share the meaning of the reality that we perceive. However, I still haves some doubtful points toward this poem. After building permanent beautiful rural scenery, why the poet uses “Cold Pastoral” at last? Why there is still “other woe”? I think this is the real classic that leads us to ponder much more.


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