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Symbol Analysis

The symbol of exploration has two layers. The first and obvious layer of meaning is that all readers are explorers of new worlds when they read. Keats describes himself as one who explores all around and takes extreme pleasure in finding these new and exciting lands.

The second layer, though, is the poet as a discoverer. The poet is the one who first finds this world and then translates it to others. In this way, Keats believed that poets had huge responsibilities to the world.

  • Line 1: Keats sees himself as a traveller, and explorer of these literary lands.
  • Line 3: The reference to the "western islands" slyly prepares the reader to hear about Spanish explorers in the new world at the end of the poem.
  • Line 9-10: Astronomers are more modern-day explorers. They are working to map out not just our own world but worlds beyond our world. In this case, Keats is referring to the recent discovery of Uranus.
  • Line 11: Okay, so Keats really meant Balboa, not Cortés, but still, we're talking about explorers, right? Balboa was the first explorer to see the Pacific Ocean.

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