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What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggles to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone. Fair youth beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare.
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal—yet do not grieve: She can not fade, though thou hast not thy bliss;
Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that can not shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
Forever piping songs forever new;
Forever panting and forever young;
A burning forehead and a parching tongue. Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest, Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
2. Arcadia was one of the largest provinces of that part of Greece south of the Gulf of Corinth. It is a region adapted to pasturage, and the early Arcadians were shepherds. Vegetation was rich and magnificent and the scenery beautiful. The inhabitants were deeply devoted to music and Pan was their chief deity. Their simple life has been a favorite subject for the poet.
What little town by river or seashore,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
Why thou art desolate can e'er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought, With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral! When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
As we read the poem we must build up the pictured beauties of the urn and gather the thoughts they stirred in the poet's mind. What names does he give the urn in the first four lines? What is the significance of "fosterchild of Silence and slow Time"? Can the urn speak? Is it of modern design? What is the significance of “Sylvan historian"? We know at once that the little figures on the urn have a pastoral story of olden times to relate and we are ready to enjoy its "flowery tale.” What is the subject of the next three lines? What phrases modify it? Where do the deities or mortals live? Why is it appropriate to mention Tempe and Arcady? Is "leaffringed legend" an apt phrase for a pastoral epic? Where are the pipes and timbrels? Are they in use?
Where are the “soft pipes” he would have “play on”? How can their music be sweeter than that which is heard? Why cannot the youth leave his song nor the trees be ever bare? How can the lover forever love, his mistress be ever fair? Is this idea shown in the preceding stanza? Does the same idea continue through the third stanza? Is it found in the fourth stanza? In the last? State in your own words his idea, the consistent thought, of every stanza. What is the "happy melodist forever piping songs"? What is above “all breathing human passion”?
Can you see the altar, the mysterious priest, the heifer all bedecked with garlands for the sacrifice? Is there a picture of a town or citadel on the urn? Why should Keats mention them then? Why does he call it a "pious morn”?
In the fifth stanza what is the “Attic shape”? Why should the shape be called “Attic”? What is the "fair attitude” that is addressed? Why does he call them “marble men"? What is the message Keats finds in the urn and its beauties?
The reader has by this time discovered that there is a perfect unity of thought in the poem, that not only has the poet been consistent in each stanza with the ideas of all the others, but that nowhere have distracting ideas been introduced. The thought marches straight on to the conclusion. There is a well-defined plan upon which the poem is constructed. This constitutes unity, the primal requisite of every artistic creation. There is, besides the unity in form, a unity of style in the several stanzas so that at no time is the reader sensible of jarring discords or unpleasant lines. There is nothing heavy or clumsy in the lyric; it is everywhere light and graceful, delicately wrought and highly finished. These characteristics give the poem that formal unity without which no composition can lay claim to first rank. The production still possesses an indefinable something that binds its every element together, that gives form and being to it all and makes sensible that the ode is a whole, complete and unalterable, with as distinct a personality, as perfect a shape, as the urn whose beauty is celebrated. We would resent any modification as violently as we would condemn the vandal who scratched the pictures on the urn or chipped its graceful sides.
THE FATE OF THE INDIANS'
By CHARLES SPRAGUE2 OT many generations ago, where you now sit encircled by all that exalts and embellishes civilized life, the rank thistle nodded in the wind and the wild fox dug his hole unscared. Here lived and loved another race of beings.
Beneath the same sun that rolls over our heads the Indian hunter pursued the panting deer; gazing on the same moon that smiles for you, the Indian lover wooed his dusky mate. Here the wigwam blaze beamed on the tender and the helpless, the council fire glared on the wise and the daring. Now they dipped their noble limbs in your sedgy lakes, and now they paddled the light canoe along your rocky shores. Here they warred; the echoing whoop, the defying death song, both were here; and when the tiger strife was over, here curled the smoke of peace.
Here, too, they worshipped; and from many a dark bosom went up a pure prayer to the Great Spirit. He had not written His laws for them on tables of stone, but He had traced them on the tables of their hearts. The poor child of nature knew not the God of Revelation, but the God of the universe he acknowledged in everything around. He beheld Him in the star that sank in beauty behind his lowly dwelling; in the sacred orb that flamed on him from his midday throne; in the flower that swayed in the morning breeze; in the lofty pine that had defied a thousand whirlwinds; in the fearless eagle whose untired pinion was wet in clouds.
1. This selection is from a speech delivered by Mr. Sprague at Boston on the Fourth of July, 1825.
2. Charles Sprague was a New England banker, who wrote a great deal and achieved extended popularity as an orator. Ilis style of speaking was brilliant and impressive, and his speeches were strong and influential. He was a great-hearted, sympathetic man, and the wrongs of the Indians early appealed to him.
He was born in Boston in 1791 and died in 1875.
And all this had passed away. Across the ocean came a Pilgrim bark, bearing the seeds of life and death. The former were sown for you, the latter sprang up in the path of the simple native. Two hundred years have changed the character of a great continent, and blotted forever from its face a whole, peculiar people. The Indian of falcon glance and lion bearing, the hero of the pathetic tale, is gone! And his degraded offspring crawl upon the soil, where he walked in majesty, to remind us how miserable is man when the foot of the conqueror is on his neck.
As a race, they have withered from the land. Their arrows are broken, their springs have dried up, their cabins are in the dust. Their council fire has long since gone out on the shore, and their war cry is fast dying away to the untrodden west. Slowly and sadly they climb the distant mountains and read their doom in the setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is pressing them away; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave which will settle over them forever.
1. WORDS AND PHRASES. “Generations” (par. 1). A generation, in this sense, means the average life of man from father to son, that is, about one-third of a century.