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Friday, 20 March 2009

Ode to Life John Keats 1795 -1821

lady with grecian urn Pictures, Images and Photos

Ode on a Grecian Urn is a poem by John Keats written in 1819. It is one of Keats's "Five Great Odes of 1819" which include Ode on Indolence, Ode on Melancholy, Ode to a Nightingale (another favourite of Fhina's), and To Autumn (you might know the lines, 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness').

The inspiration for the poem apparently stemmed from a visit Keats paid to the Elgin Marbles exhibition where he took some time to carefully draw a vase, and knowing that fact might make this Ode, or song, more accessible.

grecian urn Pictures, Images and Photos

Think of Keats looking at the urn, which was a type of tall coiled clay vase like this one, painted with scenes from ancient Greek life. Keats circles the pot, following its pattern around the vase, asking questions of the figures depicted there:

"What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?"

He's asking WTH is going on here? And he's a young man of 24, probably thinking of 'sowing his oats', (don't they all?!), so he is musing, 'Oh, but that we could all experience wild ecstasy in our lives!'

And so Keats reflects on the nature of love, his love for his fiancee Fanny Brawne - who had become his neighbour in Hampstead - on life, and on art.

Lady Wiki has befriended me again, after tagging me with a bug yesterday somewhat over-dramatically - She is such a Diva that one!

And so she tells me: "The poem transitions from a scene depicting a lover eternally pursuing a beloved without fulfilment to a scene that describes a village in which its people have ventured off to perform a sacrifice.

The final lines of the poem declare, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know", a line which has provoked critical consideration".

And much consternation, for what does it mean?

the opera house..france Pictures, Images and Photos

"In her study of Ode on a Grecian Urn, Lila Melani lists four paradoxes that lead to the final lines on truth and beauty:

- the discrepancy between the urn with its frozen images and the dynamic life portrayed on the urn;

the new york life Pictures, Images and Photos

There's a dynamic scene for you, from this century!

- the human and changeable versus the immortal and permanent;

Did you know, 'That dust will still be there when I'm not', is one of Fhina's favourite remarks?

walk with me after the storm Pictures, Images and Photos

- participation versus observation; Do we stand by and observe, or should we join in and sip from the cup of life, stand up and be counted?

"Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard (i.e. on the vase)
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal — yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!"

my spot Pictures, Images and Photos

- life versus art."

Our position in life is not permanent - Keats died in 1821, he was 26 and suffered tuberculosis, as his brother had before him... He was in Italy, travelling to warmer climes, to try to recuperate, and was never fulfilled in his love for Fanny, but we can still read the words that moved him and his friends, including Fanny, to whom he would regularly read, in those dulcet years before stultifying TV... We can see the golden ring she wore that was his gift to her; We can visit their beautiful home, read his letters to her, and that vase is still there in the museum in London, just as Keats saw it...

"O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"

Art and beauty, and all our words of wit and wisdom, shall be there, or here in the Ether of the Internet when we are not... mes bloggy beauties.

Please mull on that over your muffin this morning. While Fhina shall be merely contemplating her muffin-top! Salut maintenant!

john keats Pictures, Images and Photos


French Fancy said...

One reason I have the utmost respect for Keats - well, apart from his talent, is that he was an 'ordinary man' mixing with a lot of aristocratic poets of his time. He really didn't fit in with them at all and a lot of people thought he was common and just scorned him.

Keats House was very near to where I grew up and was the first thing I ever knew about him. My mum would tell me about him as we walked past it. It was never open to the public back then, more's the pity.

blognut said...

Great post, as always. I am forever learning something over here.

Beauty is Fhina...

jinksy said...

If you agree beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then likewise truth has to be different for each individual- which gives life a whole new perspective, and throws us back to the advice 'To thy own self be true'...

lakeviewer said...

How fittingly this morning for me to drink my coffee and ponder beauty and art with such fine company. Fhina, thank you for your limpid thoughts on a transient subject.

Your truth is beautiful

Michelle said...

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know"

I love that line right there. It speaks to me Fhina!!! Just exactly how you speak to me!!! I am loving this post I reread it twice!!!

I am off to my muffin (top) to contemplate!!!

I love you dear one!!!

jenniferw said...

AH! What a post! To be reminded of the soulful genius of Keats on such a beautiful morning! Thus inspired, I shall read some (more) Keats this weekend, and write a poem. I kiss your pinky toe, Fhina darling. Have a great day.

p.s. I love the picture of the empty benches!

Diane said...

I didn't realize he was so young when he died... that makes me kind of sad :(

Thank you for the lit lesson, Professor Fhina :) Have you ever considered teaching? You'd be amazing at it!!

Derrick said...

Hello Fhina,

Beautiful ponderings for a beautiful day! Let's just enjoy whatever the day brings. Happy weekend and Happy Spring.

Jewels said...

26 is too young for such a talented man. I wonder what other prose we could read, if not for his illness? In some sense, he is immortal, a full 200 years later we still know his name and are moved by his words. We should all be so lucky.

Protege said...

I love anything connected to ancient Greece. I have never heard of John Keats and I bet I would love his "Ode to Melancholy";)
Terrible he died at such a young age, but then again he managed to get famous after only 26 years while I have not even made a fingerprint on the world yet and I will for sure only leave dust when I am gone.:P
Hope you Friday is great dear Fhina.;)

Anonymous said...

Didn't Byron and friends burn Keats' body on a beach? If so, what a great funeral.
Love his poems, thanks!

Comedy Goddess said...

I have fallen in love with Keats again and again. I wish I could have known him. I also love WB Yeats.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

French Fancy: I agree with you with the whole of my heart, FF - He was an ordinary man, who first tried to make it in medicine, and never knew that he would find such success in his short life... He was such a cultured man, and so human, as his letters to Fanny Brawne illustrate... Your mum sounds as if she was a smashing lady. Keats' house is very beautiful, very tranquil and still has the feel of the village it must have been in Keats' time... xx

Bloggus Nuttus: Bless you, thank you always, BN. You are such a treat. x

jinksy: Ah, la jinks, I don't think so much that Keats was hung up on beauty - People thought he was a pretty quirky little thing, and Fanny was no oil painting of the time... I think he is aiming at finding beauty where there is truth... And as we can see it is all open to vast critical interpretation. xx

lakeviewer: I hope you enjoyed the morsel of poetry with your coffee, LV! xx

Michelle, ma belle, la, la, la, la, dum, dum dum dum, laaaa... Those words speak to me above all, too, Michelle - The sentiment is almost too beautiful for words, but the meaning has been with me for most of my adult life now. I hope you can keep it with you. xxx

I love you dear one!!!

A Woman Of No Importance said...

jenniferw: He was such a soulful poet - You are so right - Thank you for kissing my pinkie toe - I do appreciate it, bless you! Please enjoy your Keats inspired weekend! x

Diane: I know that is what is so tragic about his beautiful little life - So short, so troubled by care, family, health and financial difficulties, for he was not financially independent, and he never achieved his wish to live with Fanny. Such sadness, and yet such beauty comes of it, as seems often to be the case, Diane...

I was planning on going into teaching when I went to College, but advice we received there made me (incorrectly) believe that I would not be qualified because I had sort of flunked Maths, even tho' I wanted to teach Eng Lit and French... You are so kind to mention that, and even now I wonder what if, and also think I would never have been able to muster enough patience to do teaching justice ! xxx

Derrick: Exactly, Sir - The weekend is young! Happy Spring, Derrick...

Jewels: You are so right, girl, just so right - Thank you! x

Protege: I shall do a piece on Ode to Melancholy later, just for you, Z! And I have every belief that you are making and will make your mark in life, as you are now in Blogland, gentle Z. x

Dedene: It was in fact Shelley's body that they burned on a beach after he had drowned while sailing, sadly - I think Keats met Blake and Coleridge (I'd have to check) rather than Byron and Shelley. x

Comedy Goddess: I know exactly what you mean CG - I have his postcard on my desk at work, that my friend, Philip, sent me from Italy... He inspires me just by looking at his pale, serious face. Philip loves Yeats, but I would honestly say I have never studied his poetry - I really must read the book Phil gave me as it was a duplicate in his collection. x

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Oh I think you probably would have made an inspiring teacher. I remember studying Keats at school, I mean really remember because I loved it. I hadn't realised he'd died so young. I am going to dig out some old poetry books and re-read.Thanks for the inspiration. Bon fin de semaine ma cherie! x

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Reasons: Oh, that means a lot that you said that, dahlink... I also fell in love with Keats in so many ways through the study of his works, and words, including the lovely long La Belle Dame Sans Merci and all the lovely Pre-Raphaelites that helped illustrate so much poetry yeasrs later... What are we like when we are teenagers?! My blessings to you, sweetie xxx

Artist Unplugged said...

I rather think the ordinary is extraoridinary, it is the little things in life that make it grand- usually. I want to know how you knew I had a muffin this morning......I will not touch the muffin top subject. Am I crazy or have you got a spiffy new background? It is lovely! Today has been a day to remember, my daughter got her driver's permit (yikes!) and sadly my best friends' mother-in-law received terrible, terminal verification and my heart aches for their family. Life goes on whether we like it or not........have a wonderful rest of your weekend!

GB said...

I have been a Keats devotee since my teen years. I enjoyed your posting very much.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Dear AU: I know exactly what you mean. Forme, life is a series of little things, moments of often brief happiness and fellow feeling, which make up the whole, rather than us expecting to feel deliriously happy all the time. For me, that is an unrealistic expectation...

I have spied on you scoffing muffins through the webcam, obviously, AU!

Congrats on your DD's success - Now you can send her on errands for you to the store? I know it is something we do worry about 'though. Goddess help me when Grizz succeeds with his! And I am very sorry about your friend's terrible news, very sad.

Take care, much love x

GB: Thank you kind, Sir!

Something I wrote earlier...

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