If the Augustan era of the Enlightenment looked back to Rome for its models, the Romantics tended to look to ancient Greece.
One of the greatest works of architecture in the world was the Parthenon, the temple that Athens built to Athena Parthenos (Athena the virgin), the goddess the city was named for. Lord Elgin had brought the marble statues and friezes (a frieze is a carving on a flat piece of marble that is then put on the wall) from Greece to England in 1806. In 1816 the British Museum bought them. Greece wants them back, naturally.
He looks at the carvings of the adventures on the gods that are carved on the marble friezes.
The marbles remind him of his on mortality. They are a memento
mori. They are so ancient compared to his brief time here, yet
even they are subject to the decay of time.
An urn could be a vase or a box. It was normally used to hold the ashes of a dead person. Since Keats is meditating on death and life, permanence and transience, the urn is a fitting object of his meditation.
This poem is an example of ecphrasis.
Ekphrasis is a literary description of a work of art - a frieze, an urn, a temple, a shield. The earliest and most famous of these is Homer's description of the shield of Achilles (We'll be reading this in the final period).
Unravish'd bride = the urn hasn't been broken but has survived the centuries intact.
Such an urn seems to Keats like something permanent in a constantly changing world. This urn shows a moment frozen in time.
Keats wonders who the gods & people depicted are, but the vase keeps its secrets.
Cold Pastoral - it lacks the warmth of life, but by lacking life, it gains permanence.
The Greek philosophers thought that beauty, truth, and goodness converged
and united at the highest level.
2 Cyclades - Greek islands
5 Keats is blind because he can't read Greek. Homer is widely believed to have been blind.
The other gods also gave him gifts -