Ode on a Grecian Urn
How we cite our quotes:
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? (lines 32-34)
These lines form another example of how the poem is hinged between innocence and experience. The atmosphere of this scene looks exceptionally innocent: a priest leading a cow dressed in flowers to an altar. But if the scene were to continue, it would show the cow being butchered to death as a sacrifice to the gods, which might lead us to think differently of the priest and the townspeople. As it stands, they seem pious and peaceful.
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed; (lines 42-43)
The innocence of the urn is tarnished in this image. Now, the marble carving of the "men and maidens" looks too ornate and complicated instead of simple and straightforward. It now seems artificial – tainted by the sweat and grit of the artist – rather than natural and effortless. Even the beautiful decorative plants now looks like "weeds" that have been walked upon ("trodden") by countless people.