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Themes

Keats felt from the very beginning an urge to be great. Throughout his career, he was always looking forward to his next project. Though he was very young, he showed the talent of a much more experienced poet. In "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," Keats discovers and praises the high power of the call of poetry. The poem reads like an origin story for a superhero, for cryin' out loud. He is inspired and wants to prove himself worthy of this great calling.

Questions About Ambition

  1. What do the first four lines tell us about Keats's current experience with poetry?
  2. What do words like "bard" and "deep-brow'd" say about Keats's hopes for his own poetry?
  3. How is Chapman's Homer an example of the sort of poetry Keats wants to write? Even if you haven't read Chapman, what would you guess it to possess that so inspired Keats?
  4. What does the contrast between Cortez and his men tell us about Keats's view of his poetic calling?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Bawk bawk! (Sorry, that's our chicken sound. What? It could be worse.) Keats is scared that he won't be good enough. His writing shows how intimidated he is by the great poetry that's already been written.

Keats believes in the power of poetry and desires to follow that path because of the impact it had on his own life.

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