Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery 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 endear’d,
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, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
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 say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
About this poem
Introduced by a variety of writers, artists and other guests, the Scottish Poetry Library’s classic poem selections are a reminder of wonderful poems to rediscover.
Amanda Palmer on 'Ode on a Grecian Urn':
I decided, when I was 16, that there was no more stunning revelation than that of the beauty of anticipation
I'd been feeling it and savouring it all my life and it wasn't until I hit upon the idea that maybe the anticipation of Good Things was actually far more enjoyable than the Things Themselves.
Around that time, I mentioned my new life philosophy (perfect for a 15-year old... I was wandering around screaming: "it will never get better than your expectation of What Is To Come!", what a little twit), a wise old friend directed me to this poem. Imagining Mr. Keats checking out this crazy old Grecian vase and thinking the same thoughts as my little 15-year old self was quite mind-blowing. Just goes to show, we're all wired together.
Amanda Palmer is a performer, director, composer and musician who is best known for her role as front woman and keyboardist for internationally acclaimed punk-cabaret band The Dresden Dolls. In September 2008, Amanda released Who Killed Amanda Palmer, her debut solo album which was produced by Ben Folds, as well as a fine art book she is collaborating on with esteemed author Neil Gaiman. In conjunction with WKAP, Amanda will mount a year-long tour that will take her through Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Her recent work includes two epic performances with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall and a residency at the Famous Spiegeltent at Edinburgh.