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Old Sunday, May 29, 2005
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Post Keats – Arts Versus Life

Keats, unlike other romantics, creates art for the sake of art. Life is an enigma and art makes life understandable.

Art is imaginative reconstruction of life. Both are complementary as in the world of the Urn. Engravings on the urn take him to the world of art and nightingale takes him into the world of fancy. In art, there is permanence and coldness of life. It is a deadly permanence. The pictures on the urn represent life but they lack life. In the world of reality, there is death, decay and transience but there is also warmth of life. Art provides a window between reality and imagination. It facilitates moments of reality and imagination.

Keats discovered the metaphor of Grecian Urn. After seeing, he was motivated to speculate on the problems of life. He confronted the paradox of life and death, transience and permanence, actual and ideal, stillness and action, desire and fulfillment. After all the study, he reached the conclusion that:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty

 The title of Grecian Urn is paradoxical. It is a symbol of life and death, urn is a pot in which the ashes of the dead are kept. So it is a symbol of death. On the other hand, urn is preserved in centuries. It has become immortal. It has led a life more than life. Hence it is a symbol of life. So it resolves the paradox of life and death.

 “Unravish’d bride” is a paradox of permanence and transience.

 “Silence and slow time” is a paradox of time and timelessness.

 Sylvan historian – art has narrative quality

 Flowery tale – art has many stories about it and life.

 What leaf-fring’d legend – Art tickles the mind.

 What men or gods – art removes the distinction between mortal and immoral.

 What mad pursuit – art creates passion, ecstasy and excitement.

 Paradox between ideal and the real:

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter;


In imagination there is no limit.

 Paradox of desire and fulfillment:

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though wining near the goal – yet, do not grieve;


Art captures the life.

 There is no autumn engraved in the world of art.

Ah! happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;


 Art eternalizes the passions and beauty but in real life both decline.

In the world of art, there is no deceit.
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair.


 There is unending happiness in the world of art.

More happy love! More happy, happy love.

 Paradox of permanence and morality and unweariness.

And, happy melodist unwearied,

 There is newness and uniqueness in art

For ever piping songs for ever new.

 There is warmth and joy in art.

For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d.

 In art, there are no tensions and worries.

A burning forehead, and parching tongue.

 There is mystery in art

O mysterious priest,

 Paradox of the universal and the particular

What little town by river or sea shore.

 Art has all signs of life except life.

With forest branches and the trodden weed:

 Art mimics life

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought.

 Art is profound.

When old age shall this Generation waste.

 Art is prophetic. It gives the message

Beauty is truth, truth beauty.
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