Friday, August 28, 2009

recurring poem #8

I heard a reading of this poem the other day, and thought I should post it here, considering it
also ties in the with the ekphrasis theme at Overload. It never fails to send shivers.

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 flow'ry 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 loth?
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,
__For ever 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, unwearied,
_For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
_For ever warm and still to be enjoyed,
__For ever panting and for ever 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 drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
_Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
__Is emptied of its 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 sayst,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," -that is all
__Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Below: Tracing of an engraving of the Sosibios vase by John Keats.


  1. Hi, Im from Melbourne too.

    Please check out these references on Truth & Beauty.

  2. Thanks, will check them out. :)