The Urn Overwrought

  • David Simpson


My initial approach will seem somewhat oblique, moving as it does through a poem which many have written about, Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, and passing on to one which very few critics have taken seriously, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’. I shall try to suggest that these popular and esoteric voices can be viewed together in a more meaningful way than the mere ulterior fusion of images, the ‘sedge shaded urn’,1 would indicate, and that in this synoptic approach there lies a clue to one of the hitherto ‘unwritten’ areas of the history of Romanticism.


Opening Line Double Reading Poetical Work Summum Bonum Romantic Poetry 
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  1. 18.
    Jane Rabb Cohen, ‘Keats’s Humor in “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” ’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 17 (1968), 10–13, has tried to make a case for comedy in the poem.Google Scholar

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© David Simpson 1979

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  • David Simpson

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