“Truth in Beauty and Beauty in Truth”: Rabindranath Tagore’s Appropriation of John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819)

  • Alex Watson
Part of the Asia-Pacific and Literature in English book series (APLE)


This chapter explores Rabindranath Tagore’s preoccupation with the penultimate line of John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819): “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”. In the anti-imperialist speeches Tagore made across Asia, his conversations with Albert Einstein, and his aesthetic and political writings, Tagore frequently alluded to, quoted, interpreted and developed Keats’ elusive proclamation. This chapter demonstrates that, in part, Tagore alludes to Keats so as to imbue his words with a Romantic poetic authority. Yet, in doing so, he also forges a surprising connection between British Romanticism and Indian aesthetics, even linking Keats with a Hindu devotional context. Resisting the view that Romanticism was the exclusive property of Romantic-period Britain, Tagore uses Keats’ phrase as a means of establishing a distinctively cosmopolitan anti-colonialism.


Bengal Cosmopolitanism Hinduism Indian aesthetics Indian nationalism John Keats Rabindranath Tagore Romantic bardolatry Romanticism in India Percy Bysshe Shelley 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Watson
    • 1
  1. 1.Nagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan

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