Clareified

Where does the good go

No more words

This is, simply put, one of my favorite poems.
Maybe my second favorite poem of all time.
I’ve read it so many times, I no longer remember where or when I first read it. I was reluctant to choose it because if anyone dislikes it, I shall die. Or I will kill them. I’m kidding. (No she’s not. -Ed.)
This poem, which to my surprise is called “Ode *on* a Grecian Urn,” and not “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” as I’ve been saying for many, many years to my now, utter humiliation, is about…um…an Urn.
In my mind’s eye, I picture the urn to be one of those clay relics sitting under a display case in that fancy London museum. The urn, with its hieroglyphic pictures, and colorful tints tells its own stories; is its own poetry. The urn is the ode within the ode about the ode on the ode. Or something.
I love a million and one things about this poem, but since I try not to outwrite the length of the poem, I’ll focus on a couple of things.
First, I love that the Urn is unchanging. Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave/Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,/Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;/She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss!
These characters will always be there, frozen for all eternity. No, the lovers will never kiss; but they’ll never grow old and bitter and fight over whose Clay Aiken album that was. The kid lounging beneath the tree will never be able to get up and go watch the Patriots game with his friends, but that tree will never wilt and gnarl and decay until its branches fall off and crush his parents’ minivan.
Everything on the Urn is as it always will be.
Second, the notion that, as Keats writes: Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on, is quite comforting. The urn’s power lies in its ability to stir our own imaginations. We hear the songs and see the lovers’ courtship, yet the urn utters not a sound. It’s Keats’ fancy schmancy way of saying a picture is worth a thousand words.
Indeed.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with an utter inability to communicate with these English words of ours. I write and write, in what I believe are cogent, thoughtful, persuasive sentences; yet, the reactions I receive more resemble those one would expect if one has accused anothers mother of fornication for cash. I suppose every writer, accustomed to relying on this craft, hits a wall at some time or another, that words simply cannot elocute away. And at those times, there is Keats, right there with ya, shrugging his shoulders and saying: Sylvan historian, who canst thou express/A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme.
Or, in modern-day lingo. Pull up a seat, kid. I wrote a little poem about an Urn, wanna hear it? Here it goes:

Ode on a Grecian Urn – John Keats
Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thou express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunt about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

31 Responses to “No more words”

  1. Pdov Says:

    I like this poem, but it brings me memories of panic attacks I experienced in Scotland while being a disenchanted English major.
    Sometimes language can seem so vast and expressive and sometimes it leaves, like you it seems and Keats, utterly devastated by its inability to be the communication tool we so desperately want and need. Sigh.

  2. Dawn Summers Says:

    Sigh. Maybe we should get some urns made?

  3. Mary Says:

    Planning to go see the new movie “Bright Star” – it’s playing at BAM.

  4. Pdov Says:

    Okay this reminds me of a really lame color me mine spoof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CojXWlBlG_s

    And now I want to paint some pottery. #needahobbie #gunstooexpensive

  5. Dawn Summers Says:

    Mary,
    Uhh…is bright star about keats, urn, scotland or panic attacks? #neverheardofit

  6. Mary Says:

    It is about Keats. However, there may be an urn in it but I’m not sure if he ever visited Scotland and I wouldn’t be surprised if he suffered from panic attacks.

  7. Tae Says:

    I love poetry Wednesday. Thanks for sharing this one. “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.” Love it. Keats always sounds like a young soothing Orson Welles in my head (that’s a good thing).

    And, seriously? http://www.brightstar-movie.com/

  8. Dr. Chako Says:

    As with a lot of poetry, it’s another complex look at the meaning of life. It’s quite fitting because it’s been on my mind, like all the time. Surely this has been analyzed by far better than me, but the immortality of the urn has to the part of the truth. A life while lived is a beautiful thing, to be contemplated by others when it’s gone.

    I sure am glad to be here to contemplate the beauty, because I ain’t ready to be the urn.

    -DrC

  9. Pdov Says:

    Bright Star is going to be extremely depressing Jane Campion only makes depressing movie. #truefacts

    She is the director of The Piano.

    Bright Star is about Keats love affair. It looks good for a depressive movie and it stars the girl Witherspoon’s husband cheated on her with. #uselesbullshitIknow

  10. Dawn Summers Says:

    Yeah DrC, man can never be urn…but sometimes I wish that wasn’t true. Sorta…

  11. Tae Says:

    I imagine it would be difficult to make a happy movie about Keats with all the TB and death and everything. But they sure do look pretty.

  12. Dawn Summers Says:

    So is it wrong that when the lady in the Piano gets her finger chopped off I was like “ugh, finally! No more of that damn peeaahhhnnoooo”!

  13. Dawn Summers Says:

    I am going to assume that the absence of tito, alceste from the comment section means they hate ooagu and just dont want me to kill them. Too late! Ninjas are on their way.

  14. Tae Says:

    Hmmmmm….not “wrong,” but probably shouldn’t go around telling people about that one.

    Hey, since it looks like you’re all done over here, how about you go and write more on that other blog? Hint: Not the football one. Your faithful reader is dying to know how the other 23 days go.

  15. Pearatty Says:

    “they’ll never grow old and bitter and fight over whose Clay Aiken album that was”

    Rest assured, the Aiken album is yours — that is one custody battle you need not worry over.

  16. Dawn Summers Says:

    Yah, cause I put my name on those suckers as soon as I take em out of the case! My momma didnt raise no fool!

  17. Ugarles Says:

    Is it Poetry Only Wednesdays now?

  18. Dawn Summers Says:

    No new posts until tito comments! #holdsbreath

  19. Dawn Summers Says:

    And Alceste! #resumesbreathholding

  20. dawn Says:

    FINE! And Fisch and Ftrain.

  21. dawn Says:

    WHOA! AND DEFINITELY ANGELA!! What zee hell! BANNED!

  22. F-Train Says:

    I contemplated what kind of service I might be doing for the world if I refrained from commenting on this post. Think of it — no more posts from Dawn Summers. Certain parties would pay handsomely for such an outcome.

    But I didn’t want to be remembered by history as the man who made the world a less interesting place by depriving it of the ADD-addled ramblings of one of the craziest people I’ve ever met. I suspect, however, that we will one day look back upon this moment the same way we look back upon Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. Was it really the best choice?

    We’ll never know.

  23. Dawn Says:

    Awwwwww, HA! F-train likes me, he really likes me! #goesbacktoholdingbreath

  24. Angela Says:

    I really want to comment on this but I don’t feel like reading the poem. It looks to poem-y.

  25. Dawn Summers Says:

    Dear Angela,

    Foot, ass, it’s gonna happen! :)

  26. Pearatty Says:

    F-Train funny.

  27. Alceste Says:

    Clearly, you are not a person of your word in light of the above posts — I just generally try to skip poetry wednesday (we do not share the same tastes in poetry)

  28. tito Says:

    Wow, how flattering! Sorry to make you hold your breath, it’s been a crazy couple of days.

  29. Pearatty Says:

    Well it’s no good now, tito. She’s dead from lack of oxygen. Thanks a lot.

  30. Dawn Summers Says:

    Yeah, what pearatty said. :)

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