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The Urn

Symbol Analysis

The urn is the star of the show, and it is described in several different ways. In the beginning of the poem, it’s a married bride (but still virginal). Then the speaker looks more closely at the specific scenes depicted on its sides. He praises its shape but disses its "overwrought" decoration. Finally, he treats it like a sage with wisdom to impart. By the way, the whole idea of using a poem to describe another kind of art form (sculpture) is known by a very specific term: ekphrasis.

  • Lines 1-2: The poem opens with an apostrophe, by addressing something that cannot respond. Also, the speaker uses a metaphor to compare the urn to an "unravish’d" bride and "foster-child." The urn is being personified, or treated as if it were a person who could actually get married.
  • Line 3: Through metaphor, the urn is compared to a "sylvan historian," or someone who tells stories about forest life.
  • Lines 41-42: The speaker praises the urn’s shape and posture and provides the image of "marble men and maidens" that form a kind of "braid."
  • Line 44: The apostrophe and personification continues ("Thou silent form").
  • Lines 48-50: The urn is personified as speaking to the humans. The urn uses a simple chiasmus in the expression "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."

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