A Fall of Marigolds — Reader Q&A
Today's English Literature Mcq Quiz. 26-04-2019 Ode on a Gracian Urn
Ode on a Grecian Urn
During my senior year in college, my best friend was interviewed for a Mellon Fellowship. It was the mid-eighties, and we were Comparative Literature concentrators, drunk with French post-structuralism and hungry for the next big wave in high theory. The Famous Harvard Professor listened patiently. When my friend concluded her rigorous and sophisticated response, she expectantly asked Famous Harvard Professor what she thought of such an approach, and whether that was the answer she was looking for. Famous Harvard Professor replied, "Well, all I really hoped you would say was that you would begin by reading the poem aloud. I share this anecdote for several reasons, not the least important of which is that it calls us back to remember the sheer musical beauty of Keats's language, the luscious sensuousness of Keats's words. This is something of which every class needs to be reminded and of which most students, whose experience of poetry is silent and textual, are likely to be ignorant.
The urn represents an innocent world, unaffected by the suffering and hardship that come with change. By the end of the poem, however, the speaker begins to wonder if what he took for innocence might actually be a form of cold distance and alienation. The people on this urn never have to deal with changes in their world. Their world is permanently frozen in a single moment. The poem contrasts the timeless world of the urn with the upside-down hourglass that is human life. In the real world, joyful panting after an erotic chase can easily turn into a fever and a bad case of dry mouth. What was once sweet can become a "cloying" mess.
Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.
how do you say beloved
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As a teacher of Romantic poetry for 35 years, I have become impressed not with how hard it is to teach, say, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" but how easy it is. And this I have found disturbing because it implies that on some level the poem is already known; it has not brought its reader to and beyond the horizon of the familiar, which as I see it is one of the main indicators of poetic success. When I ask students to deform a poem after we have discussed it in class, they re-make their understanding of a familiar code of reading in a "sweet struggle" of engagement that honors the poem as an innately resilient and active principle of mind. What in this poem and by implication many Romantic poems and, for that matter, many poems makes it seem, in Jerome McGann's word, pre-read and thus not read, as poetry, at all? The urn as unravished bride proleptically contains its ravishment as a natural outcome in the ritual of weddings that parallels the consummation of questions asked.
The poet uses a very unique style of writing. Have you read it? Gauge what you retained of it below. The author is sad that the events in the urn aren't going anywhere at all, and that no one knows how the events began. The author does not appreciate the beauty of the urn.