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What You Thought These Famous Literary Quotes Meant VS. What They Actually Mean

Elle Magazine

Credit:

"Ode to a Grecian Urn" by John Keats

Quote:

"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."

What you thought: If it looks good, it must be true. That's why we trust all the ads at Sephora.

But actually: Nobody is sure who is saying the last lines of this poem. Is Keats saying it to the urn? Or is the urn saying it to all of us? If Keats is telling the urn "that's all you need to know," it may actually mean that the urn only needs its truth = beauty math, but that that equation is not very helpful for the complications of real human life. So this may not be the sentimental aphorism we tend to read it as: it might actually just be Keats saying that it's easy to be a pretty vase, but being a person is much trickier.

Topics: Books
Tags: romeo and juliet, shakespeare, alice in wonderland, hamlet, classic lit, classic literature, required reading, classic novels, lewis carroll, robert frost, richard iii, literary quotes, famous quotes, john keats, shakespeare's plays, the road less traveled, basically you've been wrong this whole time

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About the Author
Taylor Noles

Taylor has very strong feelings about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her first name is actually Delaney, and her writing has appeared on VICE, NPR, and elsewhere. You can follow her on twitter @delaney_nolan

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