Professor WoehlerENC 1102
10 April 2018
In the poems “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats and “To His Coy Mistress” by Marvell both poems have a similar goal, which is to find the true beauty of humanity. The treatment of time is very different between these poems. It’s the path that each one takes to get there that is different. The connotative language in each poem helps distinguish the differences with regard to the treatment of time. Each poem attracts two different types of readers, which creates two different views of how time is perceived.
To begin, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is talking about things that are not a subject of time. Keats believes in the control of each person’s imagination. Both poems want to unleash the beauty of humanity, but in different ways. Keats uses irony and opposites, while Marvell is interested in using the idea of time having no end. In addition, Marvell is contrasting that idea to a chariot of death that follows every person. A control of time in Marvell’s poem is evident within the first two lines when he writes, “Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, lady, were no crime” (1-2). From the surface it seems Marvell is saying, “only if we had the time, we could be coy with each other for as long as we please” but looking closely they have a deeper meaning. Marvell is saying he believes in control over time when carefully looked at. Further into the poem he tries to seduce a woman in the poem with his notion of time that he has created. The writer says, “I would / Love you ten years before the Flood; / And you should, if you please, refuse / Till the conversion of the Jews” (7-10). Marvell has show he is in control of this theoretical time. As the poem starts to end his control of time is destroyed so he can take a woman into bed. He thinks that time has no presence or purpose.
Throughout the poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats portrays that the control of things is not controlled by time. He uses images that cannot be fulfilled to show control of time. In the beginning of the poem he compares the urn to a “foster-child of silence and slow time” (2). Further into the poem he uses imagery by saying, “Fair youth, beneath the trees” (15). After this he tells the readers, “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!” (17-20). Keats is a bold believer in the control of time demonstrated throughout his poem, but he also does believe in having control of the imagination. The reader must use their own imagination to find the inner beauty of the urn. Keats makes the reader think in this poem by asking questions that do not have answers. The reader fills in the blanks from their own perspective as they read the poem. The writer says, “What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape / When men or gods are these? What maiden loaths? / What pipes and timbrels? What wild ectasy?” (5-10). The readers imagination is key to unlocking the vast potential that this poem offers and unlocking the true beauty to humanity.
These poems try to tell the reader that one should physically try to seize the day, while the other should use their own imagination to unlock the beauty of things in the real world. Both poems support this throughout the course of their respective poems. An example of this in Keats poem is when he writes, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; / Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,” (11-13). This line is saying that listening to music is wonderful, but the music people imagine is even greater. Marvell’s way of writing is different because he is more realistic with his poem. He exemplifies this reasoning by writing, “at my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;” (21-22). At the same time, he wants readers to know imagination can make life more enjoyable. When Marvell writes, “We would sit down and think which way / To walk, and pass our long love’s day” (6-7), he is using imagination for the reader to further his point. To unlock the true beauty of humanity both writes have a very different style in doing so in their work. Both writes have the same goal in their poems, but just have a different way of reaching that goal.
In conclusion, time can be viewed in different ways. Both poems exemplify the value of time, but “Ode on a Grecian Urn” uses more imagery to better understand their point of view. In “To His Coy Mistress” Marvell believes that there is a control over time, while in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats is saying the control of things are not subject to time. They are more about a control of the imagination in Keats’s poem. This is showing the main difference between these two poems when relative to the treatment of time.