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Odes Of Keats And Shelley Essay Research


J.A. Cuddon,

writing in The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Theory and Literary Terms,

defines an ode as "a lyric poem, usually of some length . . . [which]

features an elaborate stanza structure, a marked formality and stateliness in

tone and style (which makes it ceremonious) and lofty sentiments and thoughts.

In short, an ode is rather a grand poem, a full-dress poem" (Cuddon, 650).

Because of this, one would expect odes to be very popular in the eighteenth

century when poetry was very formal, and so they were. But surprisingly, we

find that the ode was a favorite form of a number of Romantics of the

nineteenth century, John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley among them. Both Keats

and Shelley found in the formalism of the ode form a springing-off point for

their Romantic thoughts. Keats?

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a long poem extolling the perfection of art

as opposed to real life, showing that art is timeless as nature can never be

because living things are caught up in a cycle of change and death. To present

this argument he compares the urn to an ?unravished bride?, which belongs to

him but yet he can never possess. He establishes a second metaphor as well,

this time comparing the urn to a ?sylvan historian?, in that it can record in

its workmanship the details of a culture long extinct. In this way Keats shows

that art exists outside of time, unlike human beings who cannot escape it. Keats?

ode is written in iambic pentameter, like a sonnet. However, it is not a sonnet

because it does not have fourteen lines, and it does not have the

setup-argument-conclusion format that a sonnet does; it couldn?t have, because

it does not begin and end in one self-contained stanza, but continues its

argument from one stanza to the next.

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