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Ode on A Grecian Urn by John Keats

Updated: Dec 24, 2018

Have you ever thought this about a romantic partner: "Is she or he The One?"

Likely, if you're over 25, this is a question you've seriously contemplated. But how do we get a sense of The One? Where does it come from? What shapes our unique individual desire for The One?

The One is an ideal. it's why so many mates seem to "fall short." They are actual, temporal, real, while The One is ephemeral, unreal, imaginary.

Should we give up The One for the actual? Do we have to?

Explore this poem by John keats where he brings you on a journey into the realm between the eternal perfect ideal and the world we inhabit in the here and now.


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-fring'd 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, unwearied,

         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 this 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."



Unravish'd - Not seized or carried away... Or unmarred

Sylvan - Consisting of or associated with the woods.

Also, Pleasantly rural or pastoral

Canst - Archaic second person singular present of "CAN"

Tempe - a valley in greece

Dale - another word for Valley

Arcady - a region in Greece that is associated with a peaceful and simple country life.

Loth - Reluctant, unwilling to do something (LOATH)

Timbrel - Tambourine or similar instrument

Endear'd - Cuase to be loved or liked

Cloy'd - Clogged.

Heifer - A young female cow that has NOT borne a calf

Brede - Ornamental embroidery or braiding

Overwrought - Too elaborate or complicated in design or construction

Trodden - Past participle of "trod"

Dost - Archaic second person singular present of 'Do'

Doth - Archaic third person of 'Do'


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