“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” is a sonnet describing the excitement experienced by the narrator upon reading a translation of Homer’s Iliad (c. 800 b.c.e.) by the sixteenth century poet George Chapman. Though it is often unwise to equate the narrator of a poem with the author, in this instance it seems appropriate to assume that John Keats himself is speaking of his own sense of amazement and delight in discovering the joys of reading Homer in such a vibrant English rendition.
The focus throughout the poem is on the feelings engendered in a person when a discovery is made. The narrator expresses himself directly to the reader, attempting to find parallels to explain what it feels like to make a great discovery for oneself. To make that feeling clear, the narrator speaks of himself as a traveler who has set out to explore uncharted lands—at least, uncharted by him. He portrays himself as someone experienced in visiting exotic places (“realms of gold,” in line 1) and as having seen “many goodly states and kingdoms” (line 2) among the “western islands” (line 3) that are inhabited by “bards” who pay homage to the god “Apollo” (line 4). The conscious reference to poets and to the Greek patron of poetry should suggest to readers that this is not a literal journey; instead, it is intended to represent the mental travel one undergoes when one enters the imaginative world of...
(The entire section is 427 words.)