Imagine the following: a bride dressed in white on her wedding day, savage men
chasing after women, the lingering subject of love, or a peaceful, uncorrupted
town. What do these topics have in common? Through the use of these topics, John
Keats portrays the theme of eternal innocence and the sufficiency of beauty
throughout his poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” In the first stanza of
the poem which has a rhyme scheme of ababcdedce, Keats introduces the theme of
eternal innocence and the sufficiency of beauty with reference to the “unravished
bride of quietness.” Accepting her purity of not yet engaging in the sexual
actions of marriage, the urn portrays the bride in this state, and she will
remain like so forever. Also in the first stanza, Keats uses the literary
technique of cacophony to describe savage men chasing women into the dark,
mysterious, and savage woods. Some of the cacophonic words include “thy,
Arcady, and ecstasy.” Using these words, Keats makes the urn capture the
picture of the chase before any sexual desires or intentions are fulfilled.

Since the urn ceases to describe anything past the chase itself, the situation
is purely innocent with beauty thus complying with the theme. Also evident
throughout the second and third stanzas is the theme of eternal innocence and
beauty. Keats writes of a young man sitting under a tree with the girl whom he
loves. He is playing a pan flute to the girl expressing his passion for her
through music. Once captured by Story2 the urn, the picture will remain like so
forever. The trees with the leaves, the maiden, and the young man himself will
always remain the same. He will always play the flute and can never kiss the
girl. Keats uses the following lines in this stanza: “She cannot fade,
though thou hast not thy bliss, / For ever wilt thou love, and she be
fair!” These lines simply mean that the boy doesn’t have the bliss of the
kiss; but the poet says not to worry because the young maiden will always be
remain by his side, young and beautiful. The urn captures her innocence.

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Therefore, since the maiden and the young man never actually have a sexual
contact relationship, their love is pure, innocent, and eternal thus complying
with the theme of eternal innocence and beauty. Continuing to the fourth stanza,
the theme of eternal innocence and beauty is profound with the subject of a
peaceful, uncorrupted town. The urn presents a priest leading a heifer dressed
in garland up to an altar. The people from the town are on their way to the
altar. The town symbolizes the potential of man (cheating, lying, pride, and
envy). Then, as the story continues, a bit of irony becomes present. The people
are portrayed to have taken over a spiritual nature of innocence and purity.

They are spiritual in nature as depicted by the urn; but not even five minutes
later, they plan to sacrifice the heifer. But, once again, by freezing in time
the picture of innocence, the urn does not represent the corrupted image that is
about to take place. It has caught the people in a holy moment, and it has
caught the town as an empty picture of beauty. Therefore, Keats once again
demonstrates eternal innocence and beauty by capturing on the urn the picture of
an uncorrupted town and a group of holy people. In the last stanza, Keats tells
the reader he has teased their thought by convincing that the theme of innocence
and beauty are ever present in society. This last stanza leaves the reader with
mixed emotions as a result of the mixed imagery. This means that the narrator
voices Story3 protests of the superiority of the world captured in the Arcadian
scenes (first stanza), but is perplexed by the unanswered questions stemming
from the silence of the “Cold Pastoral” in the last stanza. He is
primarily trying to tease the thought process by making the reader think of
something eternal. Also adding to the confusion is the most famous part of the
poem that lies within the couplet at the conclusion of the ode. Keats
metaphorically penned these lines: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is
all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” It is said that even Keats
was not clear of the exact message presented by this statement. Most critics
think he used the terms of truth and beauty in a Platonic sense, as verbal
representations of the highest ideals. The first part of the statement is
relatively clear-the highest expressions of art are the most sublime expressions
of wisdom and truth. But, the last part of the message leaves a lingering sense.

Maybe he thought only the beautiful parts of life should be represented which is
comparable to the images on the urn. But, only Keats knew the real meaning.

Overall, this last stanza forces the reader to see what is in the surrounding
world. It foresees that when there is a presence of “other woe” within
the world (which is relevant to the world today: 180 years later), the urn and
its eternal emanations of beauty will survive. So, even though the last stanza
is of a different structure (does not have the urn representing a scene), it
still represents innocence and beauty especially within the famous line
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”. And therefore, as demonstrated
throughout the entire poem by the use of innocent, unfulfilled images painted on
the urn, Keats demonstrates the theme of innocence and eternal beauty.