On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer

John Keats' "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" is a sonnet in which he creates of the impact of reading Chapman's translation of Homer. Reading Chapman's Homer does more than spark Keats' intellect. Chapman's Homer caused a massive explosion in Keats' head which allowed him to write as John Middleton Murray says "one of the finest sonnets in the English words" (Murray). With this paper I will show that Keats writes the poem 'On First Looking at Chapman's Homer after he had an epiphany as a result of reading Chapman's translation of Homer.

George Chapman was an English poet, dramatist, and translator through the Renaissance. He's most kept in mind as the poet who translated the works of Homer. He was created in Hitchin around 1559. Chapman passed on in poverty in 1634, but left a wealthy real estate of writing for everyone to inherit.

John Keats, delivered in 1795, was an British Poet. He printed three catalogs of poetry. Keats lost both parents at a very early age. Keats had not been blessed into aristocracy, he was not rich, and for that reason was not very well informed. Most critics didn't consider Keats to be credible poet. Because he was poor he cannot marry the girl he loved and only achieved popularity after his loss of life in 1821. Andrew Action of the Richmond Review writes: "The storyline of John Keats is one of the better known lives in literary record. His working class origins, poor critical reception and tragically early death constitute a perfect blueprint for a favorite archetype of the Romantic Poet" (Movement).

The poem "On Looking at Chapman's Homer" was written after Keats and his good friend Charles Cowden Clarke was given a backup of Chapman's Homer. Michael R. Richards says: "Keats's sonnet is a criticism in miniature, a capsulated criticism quite definitely in tune with almost all the Loving critics" (Richards). Evidently, Keats used the poem as a vehicle to reveal the invisible treasure of literary prosperity regarding Homer and his literary works that was not mimed by Pope.

Keats uses the Italian (Sonnet) or Petrarchan form of the sonnet to structure his poem. The octet, which is the first eight lines of the poem, holds an abba abba rhyme program. The next six lines of the poem, the sestet, have a rhyme program of cdcdcd. Needlessly to say, line 9 of the poem presents an alteration in the poem, officially known as a Volta, commonly called a change. Within the octet, Keats speaks of moves he experienced vicariously through his reading. Keats' brilliant creativeness allows him to enter into the web pages of the books and the words were as sparks causing his intellect to catch fire. In collaboration with the theme of Petrarchan sonnets, Keats uses the octet to add the challenge when he writes:

Oft of 1 wide expanse experienced I been informed / That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne / Yet performed I never inhale its real serene / Till I noticed Chapman speak aloud and vivid. (5-8)

First, it is installing to check out the words found in the poem. Keats uses words that depicts expansive travel, major discovery, and an enriching sense of satisfaction. Using words like "much", "expresses", "kingdoms", "many", and "islands", he effectively communicates that his travel was abundant and numerous. Next, he intimates finding by alluding to astrologers finding new planets, and the imagery of Cortez' first discovering the Pacific Sea. Keats encapsulates the fact that he had heard of Homer and the euphoria of the great impact of the recently acquired information by declaring:

Yet does I never breathe its natural serene / Till I listened to Chapman speak aloud and vibrant / Then experienced I love some watcher of the skies / when a new entire world swims into his ken/ or like Stout Cortez when with eagle eye / he star'd at the Pacific. (6-11)

Keats reading activities in general, and even more his specifically, reading of Chapman's Homer was so prolific, that he could only express it in the sestet with metaphors and similes that bespeak grandeur of expanse, height and depth. The overarching metaphor is reading offered as travel. Hiliary S. Brautigam, in her essay, "Controlled Passion" writes: "Keats considerably establishes the narrative with the arresting first collection, drawing the reader into the overarching metaphor that encompasses the poem" (Bressler). A surface reading of the poem misleads the reader into believing that Keats is a man who have travelled to numerous places. Keats writes:

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold / And several goodly states and

kingdoms seen. / Round many western islands have been / Which bards in fealty to Apollo carry. (1-4)

A closer inspection of the poem reveals that the word "much" quantifies travel that was done figuratively rather than literally. So in this situation there is a twist of irony and addititionally there is the masterful use of binary opposition whereby "much" is less in terms of Keats' real travel, but it is amounts in conditions of travel through reading. The identical mastery is true for the idea of travel. As defined by Dictionary. Com to visit is: "to go or go in one place or indicate another"(Dictionary. com). Denotatively, the word travel means moving between physical areas; however, in Keats' case, travel is not between physical spots, but has ended miles on mental projection. While Keats' hero, Homer, though blind, travelled extensively, almost all Keats travel is at the area of his reading.

The further use of simile and metaphor makes a great segue for Keats' use of imagery. Keats creates: Then noticed I love some watcher of the skies / When a new entire world swims into his ken / Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes / He star'd at the Pacific - and everything his men (9-12). The simile "watcher of the skies" talks of men and women who examined the science of astronomy. In the historical context, 'watchers of the skies' or, astrologers are people who examined the skies. Regarding to Chris Lawton, "From around 3000 BC onwards, astronomy in its most primitive form possessed developed" (Lawton). In the religious context, 'watchers of the skies' were called Egyptian Magi, smart men, who could actually go through the skies and gain the data and wisdom to predict happenings. The religious value of Magi can be found throughout the Holy Bible. For example, Matthew, in Matthew 2:1, 7 writes: "Now when Jesus was born there came sensible men from the east to Jerusalem' Then Herod enquired of them diligently what time the celebrity came out (Matthew). Thus, Keats' pronouncement that he thought just like a "watcher of the skies" firmly implies the amount of think about and amazement he sensed when reading Chapman's translation of Homer. It had been, for Keats, as if he became aware of a 'celestial event'.

Interestingly, the subject of the poem "On First Looking at Chapman's Homer" the emphasis on 'Chapman's Homer' alludes to the actual fact that Keats was aware of the interpretation of Homer as translated by the English Poet, Alexander Pope. Michael Richards creates: "Keats had been previously acquainted with Homer, only through Pope's translations, translations that Keats found artificial" (Richards). Further, Richards promises:

The Romantics' criticisms of Pope and Chapman agreed with Keats for the reason that it condemns the flaccidity, the polluted poetic diction, and the artificiality of Pope's translation and praised the power, purity, and originality of Chapman's (Richards).

Until Keats browse the translation by George Chapman, there is no awakening in him. Furthermore, the use of the word 'looking' in the title utilizes irony and imagery masterfully. Relating to Dictionary. Com: look may be thought as: 'to investigate; to see'

(Dictionary. Com). It is fair to conclude that Keats' reading and understanding of Chapman's Homer was so extensive that Keats could 'see by visualization' the incidents, places, and people in Chapman's translation.

In addition, the overarching styles of travel and discovery may very well be complimented by a style of enlightenment or awakening. Through a theme of enlightenment or awakening, it might be argued that when Keats read Chapman's Homer, it was not the very first time that Keats acquired heard of Homer; however, it was the very first time that the life span, legacy, and literary contributions of Homer united with the literary experience and convictions of Keats, having a baby to a synergistic awakening which unleashed Keats' imagination. Keats' declaration of experiencing Chapman 'speak aloud and strong' is the climatic point in time when he noticed and understood the energy of Chapman's translation. Keats believes that Chapman illuminated Homer much better than another poet.

The Sestet of the poem shows an overpowering term picture. There's a picture of bewildering enjoyment, star-struck awe, and gratifying silence, much just like a fan anticipating a climax, then exceptional climax, and following the climax, dropping into a breathless, trance-like fulfilled silence. Keats writes:

Then felt I love some watcher of the skies / When a new entire world swims into his ken; / Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes / He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men Look'd at each other with a crazy surmise / Silent, upon a maximum in Darien. (9-14)

As is expected of Italian Sonnets, there is a clear denouement in the sestet.

The depictions of Cortez as "stout" and "eagle-eyed" are additional and effective uses of simile and metaphor that enhances the imagery. The term "stout" commonly evokes physical images of being "hefty", "round", "bulky" or "fat". But, in conjunction with the appearance "eagle-eye", it probably identifies with this interpretation as defined by Dictionary. Com: "having stamina or stamina" (Dictionary. com). It is a well known proven fact that the eye-sight of eagles is more advanced than that of humans. While lauding the superior eyesight of Cortez to recognize the Pacific Sea, Keats also shows the perfection with which he scoured Chapman's interpretation. Thus, by incorporating stout with eagle-eye, the poem highlights the power, stamina and precision of not only Cortez but also that of Keats. The allusions to strength and strength bolsters Keats' strong use of metaphors, simile, and imagery. The strength of these literary elements is testament to Keats' opinion that Chapman's Homer is superior to that of Pope's. Inside the poem, Keats atttributes the breakthrough of the Pacific Sea to Cortez rather than Balboa. It isn't clear whether Keats's attribution was because of this of an careless scholastic way, or, whether the attribution was because of this of the deliberate use of poetic conceit which is using expanded metaphors to set-up an image. What exactly is crystal clear though, is the fact that with diction, imagery, the utilization metaphor and simile, and the application of binary oppositions and irony, Keats allows the audience to envision how he noticed when the life span and works of Homer as proposed by Chapman handled his pysche.

The impact of Chapman's Homer complimented Keats' historical, public and political perspectives. In Oct 1816 during the Romanic Age Keats penned "On First Looking at Chapman's Homer. As was installing during the Intimate Time, Keats 'glorified' Homer in the poem. Of course, in the neoclassic era, Homer's individual heroism would be frowned upon, since neoclassics preferred people who conformed to communal norms. Like Homer, Keats elevates the artwork of using metaphors. Again, Like Homer, Keats also combines the fine art of using simile and metaphor to bring to life a literary work that may often be mundane. This is a comparability of how Homer and Keats blended similes and metaphors. Homer writes: "The two immortals stepped briskly as untamed doves, quivering, keen to defend the fighting men of Argos. " (Fagles)

Keats creates: Then noticed I like some watcher of the skies / When a new globe swims into his ken (9-10). It is visible that Keats discovered the value of Homer's use of metaphors and immediately made use of this powerful literary tool.

In summation, I submit that Keats' capacity as a poet and his knowledge of the purpose and components of Poetry, in particular, imagery, simile and metaphors were awakened by Chapman because Chapman captured the essence of using similes, metaphors, and imagery and offered life to writing about Homer. Apparently, after watching Chapman's use of metaphor and increasing a deeper understanding of the energy of the use of metaphor and simile, Keats' gratitude for the kids as literary elements grew. Predicated on his newfound understanding, you'll be able to assert that Keats' view of Homer, as seen through the scope of Pope's translation appeared tumultuous. However, Chapman's translation depicted a much clearer view of a guy whose territory is serene. Chapman's translation was the catalyst for Keats' climatic epiphany. Keats could obviously articulate how he noticed before reading Chapman's Homer and how he noticed after reading Chapman's Homer. The enthusiasm sensed by Keats as he discovered new truths about Homer and his work, is the one which is shared and really should be distributed by anybody seeking higher learner. John Keats so brilliantly and effectively conveyed the thoughts he sensed as he uncovered the dynamics of Homer that viewers of the poem are drawn into the exhilaration of travel and discovery metaphorically. The imagery of Keats first as a poet who's reading for knowledge, then as an astronomer gazing into new truths, and lastly as a explorer knowing that he previously discovered a new world of literary skill was very brilliant. The impact of Keats's finding fueled him to show the skill and report the experience. Because of this future students, poets, authors, translators, interpreters, and fans of the literary world have a good specimen of the effectiveness of imagery, simile, and metaphor. What of Keats pursuing below are a fitting bottom line to his discovery of vitality of the metaphor. Keats creates: Oft of 1 wide expanse acquired I been told / That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne / Yet performed I never inhale and exhale its natural serene / Till I listened to Chapman speak out loud and daring.


Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism. Top Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, Prentice Hall, 2007.

Dictionary. com. 10 July 2010 <http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/travel>.

Dictionary. com. 15 July 2010 <http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/stoutl>.

Dictionary. com. 19 July 2010 <http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/look>.

Fagles. Think Mission. Org. 10 July 2010 <http://library. thinkquest. org/19300/data/homer. htm>.

Lawton, Chris. tcp. co. uk. 5 July 2010 <http://homepages. tcp. co. uk/~carling/astrhis. html>.

Matthew. Blue Notice Bible. 8 July 2010 <http://www. blueletterbible. org>

Motion, Andrew. Richmond Review. 27 August 2010 <www. richmondreview. co. uk/books/keats. htm>.

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