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Themes

It’s hard to tell the difference between sex and love in this poem. Despite being a huge Romantic, Keats was a realist on matters of love: he knew that just because you want to be with someone one moment doesn’t mean you will love them forever. The speaker proposes the ideal solution to the transience of our erotic feelings: we just have to stop time right before the act of sex, and remain in the moment of joyful anticipation forever.

Questions About Sex

  1. Do you think the men depicted on the urn would still be in love with the maidens if they knew their love would never be consummated?
  2. Is it appropriate for us to interpret the poem’s references to kisses and love in more explicitly sexual terms? How does this decision alter the poem?
  3. What can be said about the speaker’s attitude toward sexuality?
  4. How does Keats use poetic devices to reproduce a state of sexual excitement on the part of the speaker.

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker eventually comes to realize that a state of prolonged sexual excitement would be more painful than pleasurable.

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