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Please summarize Keats' "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer."

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f420 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 27, 2010 at 11:02 PM via web

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Please summarize Keats' "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer."

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 27, 2010 at 11:27 PM (Answer #1)

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I can help you with a summary of "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," by Keats.  I don't know if it will be "full" or not, since I'm not sure what that is. 

The speaker has traveled widely through classical lands (metaphorically).  In other words, he has read much classical literature.  He has read that Homer is king of the classical writers (the best).  But he never knew this for himself until he read Chapman's translation.

This discovery, for the speaker, was like an astronomer's discovery of a new celestial body, or like a discoverer's discovery of a new ocean. 

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted April 27, 2010 at 11:30 PM (Answer #2)

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John Keats(1795-1821) the English Romantic poet was the son of an ostler-a person who looked after the horses in a stable. He had a rudimentary school education and never went to university. Nevertheless, he was fascinated by ancient Greek classical poetry. The only way he could read Homer's epics was in an English translation.

George Chapaman (1559-1634) the Elizabethan poet and dramatist had translated Homer's epics into English. In October 1816 Keats read this translation throughout the night and then wrote the sonnet "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer." The Petrarchan sonnet expresses Keats' intense joy and amazement on reading the great epics of Homer in English for the first time.

"deep-browed" refers to the intellect of Homer. Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" are the seminal works of western literature which continue to influence writers even today.

"demesne" is a medieval word meaning 'domain.' The word reveals Keats' love for all things medieval and colours the poem with an archaic tinge.

In the octave Keats,the reader and lover of poetry, compares himself to an explorer who has travelled far and wide and that in the course of his voyages he has heard of Homer's famous 'domain' but that he couldn't visit it and experience its beauties till he had read the English translation of Chapman.

In the sestet he gives us two analogies to describe his joy on reading Chapman's "Homer." Firstly, he remarks that he was as thrilled as an astronomer who discovers a new planet and secondly, he was as delighted as when the explorer Cortez discovered the Pacific Ocean:

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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