Ode on Indolence: Stanza 1 - Summary

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One morn before me were three figures seen,
With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced;
And one behind the other stepp’d serene,
In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;
They pass’d, like figures on a marble urn,
When shifted round to see the other side;
They came again; as when the urn once more
Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;
And they were strange to me, as may betide
With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.


      One morn before.....Phidian lore. Keats in his vision saw three figures. Their necks were bent forward and thus they were looking down. Their hands were joined behind their backs. They did not face the poet. Only the sides of their faces were towards him. So he could not see them fully. They walked with soft foot-steps behind one another. They were wearing sandals which did not produce any sound They were wearing white clothes. The three figures were like images carved on an urn. When the urn is turned round the images engraved on it appear and disappear from the person who is looking at one side of it. In the same way, the three figures appeared very strange and mysterious to him. Just as a skilled artist having a first-hand knowledge of the art of the great Greek sculptor, Phidias, is unfamiliar with the figures engraved on an urn, in the same way, Keats, despite his mastery over the sculptor’s art, was unfamiliar with the three figures that seemed to be carved on some urn.

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