Looking At Life And Death In Literature English Literature Essay

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There are various life lessons taught to us through personal experience. To many people, the thought of dying leads to questions about how we live our life now. One can read about love, passion, and strife. However, a writer's conception about life can relate a valuable lesson to the reader. Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn conveys a melancholy meaning about the beauty in immortality. Shelley's, Ozymandias communicates a similar message about immorality and death. Both poems were written to question our existence and meaning in life. However, Keats writes more luminously and delivers the message that beauty is only temporary. Though, both poems have a similar context, the authors are disparate in their approach.

piper as a, "happy melodist" because his songs will continue for eternity. The lovers crafted in ceaselessly youthful and happy in each other's company. Though, the two lovers can never express their love with a kiss. In the real world, the lover's happiness is imperfect. The lack of intimacy leads to hurt, sorrow, and a longing that cannot be fully quenched. Hence, Keats remarks about the lovers "burning forehead, and a parching tongue" indicating an unfulfilled human desire.

Immortality is impossible for any human-being. Shelley's, Ozymandias a traveler recalls seeing two immense legs of stone stand without a body, and near them a massive, crumbling stone head lies "half sunk" in the sand. The traveler tells the speaker about the frown and "sneer of cold command" on the statue's half-shattered face indicate that the sculptor understood well the passions of the man idolized in the sculpture. Many centuries ago, the immense statue must have been a symbol of wealth and power. The stature of the man lies in the written words on the statue, "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" Although the king sneered with condescension for those weaker than him, he took care of his people. Thus, Shelley's reference to "The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed" indicates a cold but caring king. At one time, the statue must have been a sight to boast for the prideful king. However, it is ironic that the immense statue presently remains a "colossal wreck."

Keats cleverly illustrates the urn's beauty and contrasts it with real human emotion. The "cold pastoral" of the urn exists forever specifically because it has never lived. This poem is comparatively easy to relate to because most people have desires to stay youthful and live forever. Much of the poem seems to stem from Keats own struggles in life. By the time Ode on a

Grecian Urn was written Keats was passionately in love with a young woman, Fanny Brawne. Unfortunately, he was unable to act resolutely on his feelings toward her. Keats thought his lower social status and his financial tribulations stood in the way of their happiness. Consequently, Keats was like the cold marble of the urn which stood fixed and immovable. At the time this poem was written he was also tragically dying from tuberculosis (Minahan 194). One could only wonder if Keats wished he could live forever when this poem was written. The harsh reality of this poem simply states that the beauty of this urn is unrealistic. The description of the images on the urn helps the reader imagine vivid illustrations. The reader is then left with the most important last two lines of Keats poem which read, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-that us all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." These last two lines are the most powerful words in the entire poem. Keats says that when he dies and all those of his generation, the urn will remain. The urn will say to the next generation what it has said to Keats:  "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." The infamous lines simply mean, do not try to look beyond the beauty of the urn and its images. The images and eternal beauty are not life. The beauty itself is enough for a person to look upon.

In Shelley's, Ozymandias the statue described is in ruins. The reader can imagine how this colossal statue must have looked centuries ago. Today that king's greatness is nothing more than a memory. Unlike Keats urn, the statue barely survived over the centuries. One questions the significance of life after reading this poem. The great Ozymandias full of pride, power, and riches only has his weathered statue remaining in the middle of a vast desolate desert. As Langer stated, "Shelley captured this incredible vanity in his poem Ozymandias." The money and power one has is only temporary, until an inevitable death. In our own small way we can mimic Ozymandias. We collect souvenirs and build memorials all to achieve a sense of immortality. In reality, the beautiful possessions a person obtains in a lifetime will not always last.

These poems send powerful messages about the realities of life. Shelley uses a crumpled up statue of a once powerful king to convey a message that nothing lasts forever. Keats describes a brilliantly crafted urn and compares it to the reality of life itself. In fact, Keats gets the message across more eloquently than Shelley. "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a powerful poem about the immortality and the beauty in life.