On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

by John Keats

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet 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 wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Summary of On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

  • Popularity of “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”: This poem was written by John Keats, a great English poet. It was first published in 1816. The poem speaks about the speaker’s delightful experience upon reading Chapman’s translation. It also illustrates his love for literature. The poet shares his excitement on finding a new epistemic production.
  • “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”, As a Representative of Wonder: This poem is an expression of wonder. The narrator explains that, in his imagination, he has visited many exotic places and has seen many grand states and kingdoms inhabited by bards who worshipped Apollo. The speaker refers to the ancient Greek world to draw the readers toward the mental non-physical he has taken while stepping into the imaginary literary world. Although he is familiar with the great works of Homer, this new translation has filled his heart with a special aesthetic enjoyment. To him, this unique discovery gives the same bliss felt by an astronomer who discovers new planets or by a Cortez when he first sights the Pacific.
  • Major Themes in “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”: Love for literature, excitement, and reading are the major themes of this poem. The speaker’s excitement upon reading a new translation of the legend, Homer, reveals his unbound love for literature. He describes his reading experience, saying it seems that the whole world around him has come to life. Then the speaker highlights the transportive power of literature: writer’s few words can make us travel to the great and distant lands.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

Literary devices are modes that represent writers’ ideas, feelings, and emotions. It is through these devices writers make their words appealing to the readers. Keats has also used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /a/ in “Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold”.
  2. Allusion: Allusion is a belief and an indirect reference of a person, place, thing, or idea of a historical, cultural, political, or literary significance. This poem is filled with allusions. For example, “realms of gold,” refer to Odysseus’ journey in The Iliad and The Odyssey and “peak in Darien” refers to a mountain in Central America.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, such as the sound of /t/ in “stout Cortez when with eagle eyes”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues over to the next line. For example,

“When a new planet 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 wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. Keats has used this device throughout the poem as he exaggerates Chapman’s translations. He wonders at reading his work, like an astronomer discovering a new planet or Cortez surveying the Pacific, is exaggerated to express the profound effect of Chapman’s voice.
  2. Imagery: Imagery means to use figurative language to represent objects, actions, and ideas in such a way that it appeals to our physical senses. For example, “He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men”, “Look’d at each other with a wild surmise” and “Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold.”
  3. Simile: It is a device used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear two the readers. There are two similes used in this poem; “Then felt I like some watcher of the skies/ When a new planet swims into his ken;” and “Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes/ He star’d at the Pacific.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem

  1. Iambic Pentameter: It is a type of meter having five iambs per line. The poem follows iambic pentameter such as; “And many goodly states and kingdoms seen.”
  2. Petrarchan sonnet: A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines. This poem is a Petrarchan sonnet composed of two parts – an octave and a sestet.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABBAABBACDCDCD rhyme scheme.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas in this poem, with each consist of a different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful for children to tell them about the benefits of reading.

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.”