On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer

1449 WordsAug 13, 20096 Pages
General Comments Keats was so moved by the power and aliveness of Chapman's translation of Homer that he wrote this sonnet--after spending all night reading Homer with a friend. The poem expresses the intensity of Keats's experience; it also reveals how passionately he cared about poetry. To communicate how profoundly the revelation of Homer's genius affected him, Keats uses imagery of exploration and discovery. In a sense, the reading experience itself becomes a Homeric voyage, both for the poet and the reader. Written in October 1816, this is the first entirely successful (surviving) poem he wrote. John Middleton Murry called it "one of the finest sonnets in the English language." Definitions and Allusions The lines of the…show more content…
What are your assocations with the words "pure" and "serene"-- positive, negative, neutral? Note that these words apply to both the poetry of Homer and the translation by Chapman. Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold; The Sestet (lines 9-14) Then felt I like some watcher of the skies "Then" moves the poem to a new idea, to the consequences or the results of reading Chapman's translation. At the same time, "then" connects the sestet to the octet and so provides a smooth transition from one section of the poem to the other. In this line and the next line, reading Chapman's translation has revealed a new dimension or world to Keats, which he expresses by extending the world to include the heavens. When a new planet swims into his ken; To get a sense of Keats' excitement and joy at the discovery of Homer via Chapman, imagine the moment of looking up into the sky and seeing a planet--which has been unknown till that moment. Also imagine the moment of struggling up a mountain, reaching the top and beholding--not land, as you expected--but an expanse of ocean, reaching to the horizon and beyond. What would that moment of discovery, that moment of revelation of a new world, that moment of enlarging the world you knew, feel like? The planet "swims" into view. Though the astronomer is actively looking (as Keats actively read), yet the planet, which has always been there, comes into
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