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Ode on a Grecian Urn

Ode on a Grecian Urn

by John Keats

Wisdom and Knowledge Theme

The speaker turns to the urn as a source of wisdom. We take it that he is feeling down on life and love and needs some good advice – and who better to give advice than a thousands-year-old pot? At first, it’s not clear what kind of help the urn can be, seeing as the world it depicts is so different from that of the speaker. But at the end of the poem, it delivers the message that beauty and truth are one and the same. What exactly this means has been a mystery ever since.

Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

  1. Why does the speaker call the urn a "Sylvan historian"? How well does it fulfill this role?
  2. Does the speaker of the poem possess some wisdom, or is he more like a young dreamer?
  3. Do the last two lines hold any water for you? What do they mean, or, to put it another way, what is their effect on you?
  4. How can wisdom be passed down through art? What can silent artworks tell us about Ancient Greece that Greek writings or histories cannot?

Chew on This

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

Keats wants the reader to approach the poem as the speaker approaches the urn.

If truth is the same as beauty, then truth is an spiritual experience and can change from one moment to the next.

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