On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer
by John Keats
On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer Theme of Awe and Amazement
You've probably heard the cheesy saying: "Life isn't about how many breaths you take, it's about how many moments take your breath away." (What? We warned you it was cheesy.) Still, there is some truth to it; we measure our lives by the moments we are struck stupid by something so beautiful or amazing that we can only stand and drool. In "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," that moment for Keats is "hearing" (more likely, reading) Chapman's translation. Something about the language and the imagery just floors him, and he knows he will never be the same. (Thankfully, he was able to churn out a poem with a much lower cheese factor.)
Questions About Awe and Amazement
- Look at the long list of the speaker's experience before Chapman's Homer. How would you describe his attitude toward that experience?
- What do you think it was about Chapman's poetry that struck Keats as so incredible?
- Keats uses the metaphor of an astronomer discovering a new planet and an explorer discovering an ocean to convey his awe. What other metaphors can you think of for that feeling?
- Is there anywhere in the poem where you see Keats wanting others to be in awe of him, the way that he is in awe of Chapman? If so, where do you see them?
Chew on This
Hang on a second, Keats ol' buddy. Awe and amazement are completely personal and subjective—what totally floors one person might not affect anyone else as forcefully.
Keats feels that it is the artist's job to take those moments of awe and recreate them for others in their work. Now try putting that on your resume.