How Art is Dealt with in “Ozymandias” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
These two poems, “Ozymandias” written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” written by John Keats are two romantic poems about art. Both poets describe with their own words what they have seen. In the first poem, the poet describes the statue with the words which a traveler has told to him. In the second poem, the poet describes what he sees on the painted Urn. The term “art“ is used to describe a particular type of creative production generated by human beings, and the term usually implies some degree of aesthetic value. In other words, this definition means that art is when people are producing original and unusual works in which they show some degree of beauty. On the one hand, both the statue and the urn are artistic works. On the other hand, both poems are also artistic works in which poets use word to achieve something unique and by using appropriate words to describe another two artistic works.
Art is dealt with in these two poems in a way which presents a picture and a statue which are not alive. Art in these two poems is about what something is based on, what it is linked, connected with. Art is described in a way which these two poets see it. They express how those arts have a history and their own stories and how art is different from real life. Art is dealt with in “Ozymandias” in a way that is based on a retold true story, the description of a statue and how the poet makes a perfect connection with the past and present time. Art is dealt with in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” in a way that is presented with some pictures with their own stories and again comparison with a real life and the time.
In “Ozymandias” it is interesting to read the whole poem and figure out the connection between the poet, the traveler who is telling the story, the one who has made the statue and the one who is the most important figure, the king for whom the whole poem is written. This poem is based on a true story about the king who was so powerful and ordered a sculptor to make a statue of him. “The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,” (line 8) the hand is the sculptor which has made the statue with the “wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command” which make an impression that the king was cruel and mysterious. The time is changing and now that statue is just pieces. That is also seen in these verses: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in a desert…. Near them on the sand half sunk a shattered visage lies,” (line 2, 3, 4) that in the past there was a powerful king and how there are just pieces of the big and great statue which was admired in the past.
Everything as the time passes fade away and the king will be forgotten, the sculptor also. The statue existed for centuries and is a proof that is immortal as the art is even though the time damages it. That statue is unique with its own story and that artistic figure is immortal as the words in the poem which makes it also immortal. It is true that people are made of blood and muscles and everyone is going to die. The king is dead, but the art makes him immortal forever. The art makes it to live forever. That is the most important thing how art is dealt with in this poem and that is how the art is related to this present time. “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay” (line 12), somehow it remains pieces which stretch in the sand. In another words what the king said and what is left? Words are left on the pedestal. What the poet has written and what is left? The whole poem is left.
In the second poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” the poet describes what he sees from the images on the urn. He finds concrete words to create a story. How art is dealt with in this poem is the way in which the pictures are connected to real life. Someone else was inspired and pictured that urn. Now, the poet tries to understand what those pictures are. He tries to enter the urn and all the thought that are coming from his mind he writes it down. In the first stanza from this verse “A flowery tale more sweetly than our rime” (line 4) it is clear that the art presented on the urn is perfect art because it needs no words to describe it. All one need is just to look upon.
With the fact that the poet on the end of the first stanza makes questions reveals an impression that the poet can discuss about that picture forever and not find an answer. That is the key of the art on the vase to present something with out frames, out of time, out of life. In the second stanza, again “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter” (line 11) or in other words a song can be remembered, a poem can be remembered but that picture is silent. By looking at the picture the words are coming right from the poet’s mind and thought. Those words are unheard and they are just in the poet’s mind. That is why they are sweeter. “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss” (line 19) in this verse it is clear that what is on that vase can not disappear. In this life, it is impossible something to last forever. There is the connection between the real world and the world in those pictures.
In the third stanza form the verse “For ever piping songs for ever new” (line 23) this means there will be always people who will look in it and every time that song will be new. Everytime the poet looks at the picture will not have the same impressions as before. It is the same like when one buys a shirt and after two weeks it is not new anymore. The time will not make the vase older like the time which makes the shirt older. In the last stanza, from the verses “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” (line 48) there is a dose of beauty in art, so in art is the truth. Art like this painted vase when a poet like him reveals all his thoughts and all ideas that come to his mind while looking in this vase is the truth. This poet finds the truth in himself and in his mind. The art was that which makes him to consider that the world on the picture is completely different from the world in which we live.
In conclusion, these two romantic poems are written about art and inspired by art. Art in these two poems is an aim to show the difference in time and the difference between the pictures and real life. While in the first poem the statue is fighting with the time to stay alive, in the second poem the urn and pictures are timeless. These poems are also works of art, but are different from the arts (the statue and the painted urn) which the poems are written about. This is a proof that a poet can be inspired from other kinds of art which is complicated to explain because the work of art in the first poem is unseen by the poet and is more important to Shelley because it functions as a metaphor for the transience of power.
These poems are written from what these two poets see. In another words , from poets perception and how they feel about a particular and concrete type of art. The important thing how art is dealt with in these poems is they present something without frames. What puts frames to art are words. The proof for that is when the other person will look at the urn will have another impression and will make other stories from the same pictures. The same can be said if the poet did not meet the traveler. He will probably think of another story when he will see the pieces of the statue.