Sunday Poetry – John Keats


Another favourite poem this week. Keats wrote this sonnet, On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer, in 1816. He had been reading George Chapman’s translation of Homer & was amazed at the new worlds revealed to him. I’ve been reading more ancient history lately & becoming interested in everything about the classical world. This morning, I listened to the BBC In Our Time podcast about the Battle of Salamis between the Greeks & the Persians in 480 BC. This led me to look up Artemisia’s advice to Xerxes in Herodotus (I haven’t read the whole book but I bought the beautiful Penguin Deluxe edition of Tom Holland’s new translation). I’ve also been listening to the Ancient World podcast & listening to the audio books of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The ancient world is such a vast subject that I feel I’m just picking up bits & pieces & trying to put it all together. Every now & then, though, I do realise how one story links to another & then I feel as excited as Keats did at discovering something new & wonderful.

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.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – John Keats

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