Ode on a Grecian Urn: Poem Stanza 1 - Summary

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Thou still unravished 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 loath?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?


      Keats gazes at Grecian Urn and contemplates with wonder its long duration on earth for centuries. It is wedded to quietness as it were. It stands silent through the slow inarch of time, as though it were the adopted child of Time. The poet sees the scene depicted on the urn and feels the charm of the pastoral story. The Urn has turned to him into the historian of a piece of pastoral life. Indeed, it seems to the poet as though sculpture can express a story of rural life, much better than poetry. He enquires wonderingly as to what legend in rural surroundings is depicted on the urn. Is it a story of the gods who frequent the valley of Temple in Thessaly? Is it a story of men who lead a pastoral life in the Peloponnesian Arcady? He is struck with wonder at these vital figures of men and maidens, of pipers and trees represented on the urn, and feels all their abandoned joy.

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