How Does Keats Express His Aesthetic Vision in ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’?

1568 words 7 pages
How does Keats express his aesthetic vision in ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’?

John Keats once said regarding Lord Byron that “he (Byron) describes what he sees, I describe what I imagine”. Keats is a typically Romantic poet in the way in which he uses the fluid boundaries of imagination within his poem to formulate his aesthetic vision which is projected in ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. Pope notes that the etymology of ‘aesthetics’ derives from the Greek meaning ‘things perceptible to the sense’ and ‘sensory impressions’; within the poem Keats uses evocative techniques to project the ‘refined sense of pleasure’ which he receives from observing the ancient piece. For Keats, the piece of art represents a timeless beauty which he longs to achieve
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In this vein, the characters of the urn are also forever encapsulated in their environment, with no means of progression or conclusion to the story which they depict.

Keats also uses the preservation of time to formulate his aesthetic vision in ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. The way in which the woman “cannot fade” is used as a consolation from Keats to the lover of the maiden, as her beauty will transcend time and will not spoil with age despite the fact that the couple will never be able to “kiss” and thus consummate their relationship. Contextually, Keats uses this fabricated romance to not only express his vision of aesthetic beauty but also to mirror his own personal tribulations. He too was in love with a woman, Fanny Brawne, and just like the figures of the urn, Keats was unable to act upon his passionate feelings due to his lower social status and an uncertain financial situation. Like the characters which he empathises with, Keats felt consumed in the immovable cold marble, thus using his aesthetic vision of the urn to portray his inner despair. Keats’ envy at becoming immortalised and to remain “unwearied” like the “happy melodist” of the poem highlights his concerns as a poet. Pope refers to high art, such as the urn as being ‘fine, sublime and timeless’, and essentially, Keats aspired to create literature worthy of