The Puzzle

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John Keats' poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" explains the speaker's frustration about not being able to understand the epic poems, "The lliad" and "The Odyssey" before a translation was made and further discovery was sought. The language that Keats uses to explain the speaker's troubles is also complicated for the reader. I think this was done on purpose as a form of kinship between the reader and the speaker. For example, looking at the very first line of the poem, "Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold" really means "the world of great art." Throughout the poem other words are meant to portray something else like "islands" (3) means "ancient literature" and "expanse" (5) means "epic poetry."

I'm not entirely sure I would have ever picked up on the difference between "islands" meaning "ancient literature" without the footnotes at the bottom of the page. I felt that the translation completely saved the poem for me. Whether or not, Keats intentionally did this is hard to say considering he may not have had those in the original publication of his work, but they definitely help to enhance the work. They also helped me understand and get the full experience out of the work.

By looking further at the end of the poem, words like "surmise" (13) means "conjecture, supposition" which I would have been able to figure out. However, the feeling that the reader is supposed to have reached at that point is clearly pointed out just in case the reader was unclear about something.

1 Comments

Kayla Lesko said:

Yeah, the footnotes saved me too.

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