The statues ‘talk’ to you
- Life size renditions in bronze
- A whole room “frieze”- small tiles used to decorate the room and tell a story
- Dig for a subway- and find a village- with an intact water system (4000 year old)
- “What leaf – fring’d legend haunt about thy shape
- Of deities or mortals, or of both
- …What men or gods are these?
- -In the first stanza the narrator (poet) wonders about the urn he sees. Are the people depicted gods- or simply mortal souls who lived long ago.
- The series of rhetorical questions indicate the curiosity and intensity of the narrator. As he stares, he begins to focus on more individual images
- As the focus turns to a specific image, the narrator wonders about the music.
- “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter” puts forth the idea that the songs ‘frozen in time’ are the ‘sweetest’
- Besides the pipes, he also sees two young lovers ‘beneath the trees’
- These lovers “canst leave their song”- and sadly, they can ‘never kiss’. Because their painted image is unmoving and unchanging, their pre-kiss moment will forever stay just that
- The upside to all of this- they will never age either!
- “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
- For ever wilt thou love and she be fair!”
- The third stanza reminds the reader of the last idea- that nothing in the picture changes. So- songs are “for ever new” and the love is “for ever warm and still to be enjoyed”
- A very different image- that of a pagan sacrifice
- “To what green alter, O mysterious priest
- Leads’t thou that heifer lowing at the skies”
- The young cow is a sacrifice- to what or for what we will never know
- In addition, the town’s streets are “empty” “pious” “silent” and “desolate”
5th and final stanza
- Back to the ‘larger’ issues
- “Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
- As doth eternity”
- The final lines are very open to interpretation- because there are quotation marks inserted around the following line: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”- where does the narrator get this quote? Is the message from the urn, or a more contemporary reference?
- In conclusion
- This poem is one man’s contemplation of: history, art, life, love and the state of his own society
- Knowing that he grew sick at 22 years of age- do you think he was mature beyond his age? Melancholy at the thought of his own failing health? Does it matter?