What is the Story Behind that Urn!?

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From Marjorie Garson's "Bodily Harm: Keats's Figures in the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'" from Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:

"Ian Jack has concluded that Keats probably drew on a number of museum-pieces that he had seen, or seen drawings of, and constructed a composite ideal urn from their details" (454).

I had to choose this quote because I'm fascinated by this poem and it really interests me how Keats got his instiration for it.

We have read, in the various other articles, the many theories of how the urn came into being.  I just always assumed that the urn did exist and with time, maybe broke or Keats just made the whole thing up.  Never did I even think of the possiblility that Keats could have create a patchwork urn, stealing things he's seen on various pieces of art.  It is fascinating to think, if Jack was right, that Keats saw these pieces of art and remembered them so well as to impose them on his own urn, his own piece of artwork.  In this case, the urn is a multi-intertextual poem drawing together multple sources into one masterpiece. 

What I am curious to know is how were urns typically back in Keats's time?  We said in class they were used to carry water.  If that's the case, maybe all the pictures and scenes that Keats describes would fit on it.  However, what if the urn were small?  If it happened to be for the ashes of the dead, let's say, it seems nearly impossible that so many different pictures would all fit on such a small urn.  In that case, we can be certain that Keats just made the whole thing up by drawing together things he had seen and maybe even a few things he invented.

I also want to mention that although I did not like this article as a whole, I want to compliment Garson on her wonderful conclusion sentence.  This is a thing I really struggle with as a writer because I worked so hard to build up a case and just do not know how to properly sum my paper up, what makes a sufficient ending sentence.  Her sentence is "The ode's stunning currency as a cultural icon--its exemplary canonicity--is perhaps worth thinking about in the context of the history and the politics it has tended so thoroughly to repress" (459).  I really like this ending because it sums up her argument well and leaves the reader feeling satisfied.  After that sentence I felt that she had summed up her point well and I was ready to write this entry.  Sometimes, however, I feel that the author does not do this, leaving the reader hanging and waiting for a proper conclusion.  I will definately have to look at this again when I am writing my final paper.  

What do you think? 

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1 Comments

Sue said:

I'm glad to see someone else was intrigued by the urn as well. I agree that the urn was probably made from different images. From my research different types of urns held different kinds of images, at least thats what it seems like anyway. I guess since Keats could have made up the design of the images in his head I guess it wouldn't matter how big the urn was.

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