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You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

“…The Lover cannot kiss, his love will always be fair,” (Austin 53).

The above interpretation of a line in Keats’s poem, “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” would suggest, as the age-old saying goes, that Lover cannot have his cake and eat it, too. In this case, kissing his maiden would be relational to the eating of the cake, whereas keeping his love “fair” by not kissing her would be the having of his cake. If he eats his cake he doesn’t have it anymore. If the Lover kisses his maiden, he could risk destroying the comfortable relationship he shares with her. And so, like the analysis and critique of this poem taken on in Austin’s essay, it goes around and around in a never-ending circle, or what-ifs, what-if-nots, could’ves, should’ves, would’ves. Decisions, decisions, but what to do? Would he rather eat his cake and enjoy it while still in the prime of life, or not risk ruining a good thing, even though, perhaps, enjoying it instead of preserving it could turn out to be so much better? It is possible that it exactly the question Keats was trying to raise from his readers.

Comments (4)

Derek Tickle:

This type of interpretation requires that the character chooses the most sensible judgment. This may be by kissing the maiden or proving his everlasting love for her. It is the "final" choice that determines the outcome. This can be related to how Keats imagines eternity. Keats must choose his eternal life based on his decisions on earth. This type of reader reaction and response could be a great topic discussion. Good choice of quote!

Greta Carroll:

Bethany, I like the analogy you made. And Keats’s poem certainly gives the reader a lot to think about. However, I’m not entirely sure he wrote the poem to give his audience something to think about. From the historical evidence Austin gives us, maybe he was writing it to try to solve the problem himself for himself. However, we should probably be careful in placing too much importance onto historical “facts.” As Eagleton showed us, “fact” is a relative term. And even this seemingly objective piece of information can be tempered by subjectivity.

Bethany Merryman:

Initially, I agree with Greta and feel that historically Keats's emotions should be taken into consideration when we analyze the poem. But I really enjoyed your analysis of his poem and your suggestion that Keats was asking the never ending question, for all eternity.

Also I love your analogy with cake. It makes me want some.

James Lohr:

I'm not sure so much that it's a matter of choice when it comes to this man's lover. It seemed to me to be more about how beautiful that feeling is the first time you have it. Any relationship brings about that excited tremble in a persons heart, it's something new, someone new, and new experiences to go along too. I'd like to hear more about your idea on this.

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