John Keats
Ode on a Grecian Urn (1820)


Thou still unravished bride of quietness,


Thou foster child of silence and slow time,


Sylvan historian, who canst thus express


A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:


What leaf-fringed legend haunts 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 loath?


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 endeared,


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


Forever 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, unweari-ed,


Forever piping songs forever new;


More happy love! more happy, happy love!


Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,


Forever panting, and forever young;


All breathing human passion far above,


That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,


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 dressed?


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.

3. Sylvan: woodland.

7. Tempe, the dales of Arcady: areas of Greece associated with the pastoral idea.

29. cloyed: feeling of excess.

41. brede: woven pattern.

42. overwrought: ornamented all over.