On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer
by John Keats
When poets refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.
- Chapman: The Chapman in the title is George Chapman, who translated Homer's work in the seventeenth century. Interestingly, the Chapman translation was widely considered inferior to the more famous Alexander Pope translation.
- Apollo: Fine, he isn't technically a person, but he's the god of poetry in Greek mythology. (4)
- Homer: He's the blind, epic poet who composed The Iliad and The Odyssey. He is regarded as sort of the father (or great-great grandfather) of poetry. (6)
- Cortez: Keats references this Spanish explorer, but he really means Balboa, the explorer who hiked across Panama and laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean. (11)
- "Western islands": These refer to the West Indies, though in context they also give a shout out to the islands around Greece where The Odyssey is set. (3)
- The Pacific: The ocean gets a nod from Keats. Specifically, he's referring to the first discovery of the world's largest ocean by the Spanish explorer Balboa.(12)
- Darien: This is the province in Panama in which Balboa first saw the ocean. (14)
- Uranus: No jokes, please. Keats gives a shout-out to the relatively recent discovery of Uranus by Sir William Herschel in 1781. This was a very big deal as it was the first planet not found by the astronomers of antiquity. (10)
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