Truth and Knowledge are Power

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” signifies is based on the idea that truth cannot be found through knowledge and logic. Instead, truth in conveyed through emotions. This is opposite of empiricism, which we discussed in class. While other Romantic poets and authors began discussing that truth truth is discovered through knowledge and experimentation, Keats illustrates that truth is not as complex as people make it to be. Instead, the only truths that we know are those that we feel. Likewise, truth is expressed in beauty. Beauty is subjective to each person, as is truth. We see this as the urn speaks in lines 49-50: “’Beauty is truth, truth is beauty’-that is all ye know o earth, and all ye need to know.” Again, Keats is bashing all empiricists who believe knowledge is gained through experimentation. Keats is claiming that truth comes from within. Similarly, Keats believed that the greatest truths can only be conveyed through silence. The urn, which is a symbol for wisdom, has been sitting in a room for thousands of years. Nobody has discovered its infinite wisdom and truth yet, for only a truly wise and emotional person can unhinge its secrets. This illustrates that not everyone discover the greatest truths. Instead, only someone subjective and emotional will be able to uncover true knowledge. We see this exemplified through all of the images on the urn. For example, the second stanza depicts a man gazing upon his beautiful love. “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, for ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” (19-20) Although the man can never kiss her, for she is frozen in time, he will never grieve because her beauty is eternal. The speaker can see man’s love through the way he gapes at his love. Because of this, their love will remain forever. Their love and her beauty are the only truths. Beauty and truth are equal in the eyes of the beholder.

“Goblin Market” is a social critique of the patriarchal view of women during the Victorian period. The poem begins by listing 29 various fruits. Personally, I viewed these fruits to be a symbol for the forbidden fruit that Eve ate, as described in Genesis. Laura states to her sister, “We must not look at goblin men, we must not buy their fruits: who knows upon what soil they fed their hungry thirsty roots?” (42-45). We see here that Laura is warning her sister not to eat the fruit, for its consequences are unknown. In this poem, the forbidden fruits are a symbol for sexuality and knowledge. During the Victorian era, women were to be chaste, honorable, and quiet. They only needed enough education to be able to hold a suitable conversation. Women who had their own views of politics, life, etc. were undesirable. Likewise, if women were too sexual, they were shunned. This is reiterated when Laura becomes so overcome with desire that she gorges herself on fruit. “I ate and ate my fill, yet my mouth waters still” (165-166). Here, Laura is presenting the fears for women if they become educated or sexual. If women became educated, they would be able to rise against men, thus becoming more dominant. And we all know how men felt about that! Similarly, men only wanted to marry virgins. If women were not, they were considered whores. When Laura desires more fruit butt cannot have it, she becomes deathly ill. For eating the fruit, Laura bares the consequences degrading societal norms. Once she gave into temptation, there was no returning. This is what men feared if women were to be educated: they would become so consumed with knowledge that they would raise to power. Even though Laura is ill, she feels no remorse for eating the fruit. The only thing that can save her is to taste the again. This is crucial for her rehabilitation into society. It is important to note that Laura continues to think of the fruit for the remainder of her life. “Laura would call the little ones and tell them of her early prime.” (548-549). Although she no longer craves it, it will always be apart of her. This mimics the reality of discovering sexuality and education. Rossetti here is explaining that women should not fear sexuality and knowledge, but they should be cautious of it.

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2 thoughts on “Truth and Knowledge are Power

  1. I really liked your comparison of the fruit to the tree of knowledge and that once she ate it she could not turn back from temptation. is the fruit good or bad? I saw it as the goblin being men trying to sell off their charm and try to coax Laura into being with them. On the other hand, I can see that Laura wants to experience sexuality and know of its positives and negatives. This does give her more knowledge and experience and is now a part of her. Lizzie still resisted eating the fruit, but I wonder what her thoughts are of Laura now?

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