Friday, August 17, 2007

Poetry Friday - Ode on a Grecian Urn


...because we've been watching (as in "I've watched three episodes so far") the fascinating "Classical Archaeology of Greece and Rome" from the Teaching Company this week. As much as this is a famous and parodied poem and all that, I had never read it in its entirety until today.



Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats

(first published in 1820)



THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
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!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unweari├Ęd,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: 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 say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

I found the poem at Bartleby

Commentary available here (courtesy of Brooklyn College)

Photo courtesy of Duke Magazine

Poetry Friday Roundup to be found at Kellyrfineman's Blog
And thanks to Karen for reminding me.

1 comment:

maplehouse said...

Fellow Teaching Company addicts can now view Yahoo groups and phpbb forums:

A forum on each individual lecture in all recent courses:
http://teachingcompany.12.forumer.com/index.php

My posts in Robert Hazen's "Origins of Life" forum:
http://teachingcompany.12.forumer.com/viewforum.php?f=17

Some of my new Yahoo groups:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Teaching_Company_Users/?yguid=317656331
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Teaching_Company_Users_Professor/?yguid=317656331
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Teaching_Company_Users_Subject/?yguid=317656331

Doug van Orsow
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