Introduction to Literature, Spring 1999
Ray's Syllabus                                     Kate's Syllabus

"The Big Six"

Younger Romantics:
John Keats
Percy Bysshe Shelley
George Gordon, 
Lord Byron



British Romantic Poetry

Casper David Friedrich.  Wanderer above the Mist.  1817-1818. 
From Arts and Ideas.   William Fleming, 9th ed: p. 532

The First Generation:

W. Blake

W. Wordsworth 

S.T. Coleridge 

U.S. Romantic Poets

Walt Whitman

Emily Dickensen

Romantic Novelist

Emily Bronte

John Keats (1795-1821)
  "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

 --leading questions 

     --relevant links 

Greek Pottery from Art of the Western World Michael Wood; 11.  A  form of art Greek artists excelled in.  On the urns they depicted mythological scenes as well as scenes from daily life.

  "The Lady of Shalott"--
      the poem and its illustrations

(Portrait of John Keats in Rome, shortly before his death from tuberculosis in February 1821, by his friend Joseph Severn.)
From Portico - The British Library's Online information Server
"Ode on a Grecian Urn"
Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
The poem can be divided into three parts: in the 1st stanza the speaker addresses the urn and then asks it questions; in the 2nd to 4th stanzas, the speaker looks at the urn's designs and then imagine stories, and then in the 5th, the speaker again talks to the urn.

1. The first stanza is difficult because it is filled with metaphors for the urn and then unanswered questions. The poem might interest you more if you glimpse through this part and move right into the middle part (2nd to 4th stanzas).

Stanza 2: one side of the urn shows a piper playing a pipe beneath the trees, and then a bold lover chasing his girl. How is this picture on the urn different from a real life story?

Stanza 3: This difference is what leads to the exclamations in stanza 3. What is the effect of the repetition of the words "happy" and "for ever"? If the speaker praises the "happiness" of the permanent music, love and youth on the urn, why, then, does he switch immediately to "breathing human passion" and its pains?

Stanza 4: From the questions asked here, obviously this side of the urn shows neither the altar (the destination) nor the little town (the starting point)--but the procession on their way to the alter. What is the significance? Also, why does the speaker addresses the little town which is not shown on the urn?

Compare stanza 4 with the previous two. What aspect of the urn do they all show, but treat differently?

  The poem as a whole
2.  With the stories described on the urn in mind, we can then try to understand the metaphors and names for the urn in the 1st and last stanzas. Is there, however, a difference between metaphors in the first stanza ("bride," "child," "historian") and the names in the last ("attic shape," "fair attitude" "cold Pastoral")? If so, why?

3. The last two lines may sound like a cliche and then a repeated praise of the urn.  But can they also be read ironically? (Why does the urn only know, and only need to know, "Beauty is truth, and truth beauty)?   Keep in mind the contrast between the human world and the worlds shown on the urn.

4. The poem is basically an apostrophe to an inanimate object. How does this rhetorical device function in the poem?  Does the poet apostrophize the urn just to praise it?  What does he get to understand?  The urn, and/or human beings' difference from it?

5. Re-consider the development of the poem in terms of the poet's attitudes.   What stance, or attitude, does he take in each stanza?  Can we say that the poet "enter" the urn and then leave it (or going through an empathic process)?

John Keats: Relevant Links

Overviews and Biographies

Keats poetry and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" For Further Studies:  back

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) 

"Ozymandias" (readingvideo clip)

E-Text (with a picture & interpretation)
 Questions for Group Discussion and Journal

1. logical structure

*Ozymandias, or Ramese II, was pharaoh of Egypt in the thirteenth century B.C. 

1. The poem, as an Italian sonnet, can be divided into two parts: the first eight lines (octave) and the next six lines (sestet). If the octave part describes the fragments of a sculpture the traveler sees on an ancient ruin, the sestet goes further to record the words on the pedestal and then describe the surrounding emptiness. How are the words on the pedestal in contrast to both the octave and the last three lines (triplet) of the poem?  In other words, what does Ozymandias want to achieve, as opposed to what is left behind him?

The feet of the colossus of Rameses II on which Shelley's poem Ozymandias is based. 
From Art, Space and the City p. 68.
2. Irony
From the last question, we can see the most obvious kind of opposition (between what Ozymandias said and what is left behind him).  This opposition has the effect of dramatic irony.  What other sets of oppositions or conflicts can we see in the poem?  Are they ironic?

3. Structure of narration
The poem contains a story (told by Ozymandias) within a story (told by the traveler) within a story (told by) the speaker of the poem). In the core of this multiple story, the Ozymandias we know is only a sculpture and the words on it. What does this, as well as the narrative structure, say about history and art?

Application & Wild Association
  Different Art Forms and Life
Consider "The Dance"(by William Carlos Williams), "Musee des Beaux Arts," (by W. H. Auden), "Ode on a  Grecian Urn"  and "Ozymandias" together.

Shelley : Relevant Links
Overviews and Biographies "Ozymandias"  back

George Gordon, Lord Byron

"She Walks in Beauty"

-leading questions 

 relevant links

(the song; a reading by Michael Sheen)


Thomas Phillips.  Lord Byron in Albanian Costume.  1814.  from Arts and Ideas William Fleming, 9th ed: p. 532

"She Walks in Beauty"
Questions for Group Discussion and Journal
1. What are the similes and images used to describe this lady?

2.  How is the lady characterized?  How do the sound effects (e.g. open vowels, "r" "l" and "m" sounds) help convey the meanings?

3.  Does the fact that the actual lady is in mourning and is Byron's cousin affect your picture of her?

Application & Wild Association
1. Can you picture a woman like the one in this poem?  In your imagination, is she seen in slow motion, with soft-focus?  And with what background music?

2. This poem, as well as some sonnets and courtly love poetry you are going to read, has woman as the object of the poets' love, adoration and idealistic description.  How is this woman different from the women characters you have read so far (e.g. Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen and Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, Emily in "A Rose for Emily," etc.)?

Byron : Relevant Links
  Lord Byron --Overview and Biography
The Lord Byron Homepage with links, a portrait, and an in-depth chronology: 
Virtual Newstead: Homepage of  Lord George Gordon Noel Byron with a bio, and selected poetry 
"'He walks in beauty' - Byron's mania brought on bulimia" an interesting speculation about Byron and bulimia: 
A brief bio (with Byron in Albanian Costume): 

Romanticism: Relevant Links

General Introduction

  • Romanticism--A brief statement about Romanticism from WebMuseum, Paris (in both English and French).
  • English Romantic Poets - The Site biography, work and other information of the six male Romantic poets and Gerald Manley Hopkins .
  • The Romantic Chronology
  • Romantic Passions: Cultural Product or Universal Feelings including views and texts on Romantic love since the nineteenth century.



    Further Studies

    E-Text Archive
  • Wordsworth's Complete Works (1888)
  • The William Blake Archive
  • Shelley: Complete Poetical Works (1901)



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