National Poetry Month, day twenty-five

John Keats wrote this wonderful sonnet, not about Homer, but about reading a specific translation of Homer. This fascinates me. The poem is also a powerful statement on how a great work of art can transform our perceptions, even of something we have seen many times before.

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.

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