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Plants and Trees

Symbol Analysis

It’s practically a jungle in this poem. There are trees, flowers, weeds, and branches all around. It’s a pastoral poem, so we might expect to see a lot of vegetation. By the end, however, it’s a bit too much for the speaker, who feels that the plants provide too much decoration and take away from the simplicity of the urn.

  • Line 3: The word "Sylvan" comes from a Latin word meaning "forest." The urn is a historian of the forest.
  • Line 4: "Flowery tale" is a triple pun! First, we call a tale "flowery" when it has a lot of complicated twists and turns. But this tale is also "flowery" because the urn has images of flowers and other plants all over it. Third, the urn tells its tale "sweetly," like the nectar of a flower.
  • Line 5: Another pun along the same lines. The tale is "leaf-fringed" because it is set in the forest, but Grecian urns also frequently had a border or "fringe" with a decorative design of plants.
  • Line 7: "Tempe" and "Arcady" are allusions to two regions of Ancient Greece known for being particularly lush and green. They become stock symbols in English poetry for places where people lived in the forest.
  • Line 16: The trees can’t be bare because the seasons never change on the urn.
  • Lines 21-22: The tree branches, or "boughs," are personified as being "happy," and they never say goodbye, or "adieu," to the Spring.
  • Line 43: The speaker returns one last time to the imagery of "forest branches and the trodden weed," which now seem suffocating instead of fresh.

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