Outlines for Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and "Ode on Melancholy"


Ode on a Grecian Urn

stanza 1: Keats addresses the urn as an "unravished bride of quietness" and a "foster-child of silence and slow time" perhaps to indicate that the urn's scenes are not consummated or completed.  The urn is also a "Sylvan historian" who presents Attic scenes which can be identified in general but not in particular; thus, the poet asks "What men or gods are these?  What maidens loth?"

stanza 2: The poet begins to address the scenes on the urn: the musicians' music cannot be heard, but the music of the imagination ("spirit ditties of no tone") is better.  The lovers who are just about to kiss remain forever without touching lips but also forever young and beautiful.

stanza 3: Being beautiful images, the trees can never shed their leaves and are always in Spring; equally, human passion and desire never descends to sorrow and lust and pain.

stanza 4: In the same way, the scene of a priest processing with a heifer to a pagan sacrifice against the background of a town near a body of water, will always keep secret its reasons for the sacrifice.

stanza 5: Such a static, unchanging form as the urn, like Eternity, causes the speaker of the poem to reflect and hear the urn's message: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." 

Ode on Melancholy

stanza 1: The speaker warns against giving way to poisons or other means and charms of death.

stanza 2: Instead, when you experience a melancholy moment, engorge yourself (so to speak) on the experience, whether it be a rainy April day or the standoffishness of your true love.

stanza 3: Melancholy exists with beauty and joy because everything must pass away and die.  Melancholy is a goddess who is available to those who know how to experience her delights.  The one who does will be like a war trophy in her hall.

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding