The Greek time period ekphrasis sounds moderately unique in case you seldom come throughout it, but it surely refers to an act through which we’ve all engaged at one time or one other: that’s, describing a murals. The very best ekphrases make that description as vivid as potential, to the purpose the place it turns into a murals in itself. The English language affords no better-known instance of ekphrastic poetry than John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” from 1819, which pulls off the neat trick of taking each its topic and its style from the identical historical tradition — amongst different virtues, after all, a number of of that are defined by Evan Puschak, higher often called the Nerdwriter, in his new video above, “How John Keats Writes a Poem.”
Puschak calls “Ode on a Grecian Urn” “arguably one of the best poem from arguably one of the best romantic poet,” then launches right into a line-by-line exegesis, figuring out the methods Keats employs in its development. “The speaker craves the best, eternal love depicted on and symbolized by the urn,” he says. “However the way in which he expresses himself — properly, it’s virtually embarrassing, even hysterical, feverish.”
Keats makes use of compulsive-sounding repetition of phrases like glad and eternally to “talk one thing concerning the speaker that runs counter to his phrases. It jogs my memory of these instances once you hear somebody insist on how glad they’re, however they’re simply attempting to will that truth into existence by talking it.”
In the midst of the poem, “the speaker begins to doubt his personal cravings for the permanence of artwork. Is it actually as good as he imagines?” All through, “he’s appeared to the urn, to artwork, to assuage his despair about life,” a activity to which it lastly proves not fairly equal. “In life, issues change and fade, however they’re actual. In artwork, issues could also be everlasting, however they’re lifeless.” The well-known closing traces of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” arrive on the conclusion that “magnificence is reality, reality magnificence,” and the way literal an interpretation to grant it stays a matter of debate. It could not likely be all we all know on Earth, nor even all we have to know, however the truth that we’re nonetheless arguing about it two centuries later speaks to the facility of artwork — in addition to artwork about artwork.
Associated content material:
Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embody the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the ebook The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by way of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.