The poem On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer was written by John Keats in 1816 A.D. It is a Petrarchan Sonnet. In this poem, Keats who was a Romantic poet is complementing the works of Homer and Chapman as well.
Homer wrote two famous epics, the Iliad and Odyssey. These works were later translated into the English Language by Chapman. The poem can be divided into two main parts:
- The first part deals with the experience of the poet’s travel in the world of literature before reading George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s works.
- The second part deals with the poet’s experience after reading the translated works.
The poet begins his poem with the depiction of his travel ‘in the realms of gold’. It is a symbolic statement meaning that he has read about the riches of cultures and civilization which are as precious as gold in the world of literature.
In such a world, he has come across a number of distinguished writers, their works, and their immense knowledge. He has even visited the western Islands (Aegean) where inspirational poets like Apollo were born. It signifies that he is quite aware of the literature of Apollo.
He has often been told that among the vast lands of literature, Homer too rules a significant region i.e. he too has contributed distinguished literature in the literary world. However, the poet, in spite of knowing about him could not go deep into the intellectual enrichment of his works.
It is only after reading Chapman’s translation, which told about Homer clearly and boldly, he experienced the real joy of reading him (Homer).
The poet compares his reading of Chapman’s translation with the watcher of the sky. After reading the translation feels that he has discovered a new planet in the sky. The planet here refers to Homer’s work and sky refers to the world of literature.
He compares his discovery of Homer’s intellect with Cortez’s discovery of Pacific. Cortez and his men, while standing on a peak of Darien, were quite surprised after seeing the vista of Oceans on either side of the mountain.
Like them, the poet is also quite surprised and amazed to find such a piece of work which he did not explore earlier.