the first 'famous' poem that i'm sending...
(Poem #12) On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer
Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne; Yet never did I breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold. Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken; Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes He star'd at the Pacific - and all his men Look'd at each other with a wild surmise - Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
from 'Poems', 1817 This is easily one of the two most beautifully evocative poems I've ever read, the other one being Coleridge's 'Kublai Khan' . It's no coincidence that both poems were written within a few years of each other, by poets who would come to symbolize their time: the Romantic Revolution of the early 18th century occasioned a paradigm shift in the theory of poetic expression, and the Romantic poets (Byron, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge and Wordsworth, among others) consciously strove to express their innermost feelings through their verse. And although I don't care much for the Romantics per se, I have to admit that I'm deeply moved by the best of their verse. Coming back to today's poem... Keats was (even among the Romantics) acknowledged to be the master of the evocative phrase; much of his poetry is as pure as music. Not for him the metaphysics of Shelley, the lushness of Byron, the down-to-earth genius of Wordsworth, or the flights of fancy of Coleridge: Keats was a poet in the purest sense of the word - a minstrel of the emotions. 'On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer' - well, I think that every single phrase of this poem is as close to perfection as it's possible to get. The very last line is simply sublime. I can say no more. thomas. PS. One of these days I'll write and send an essay on various movements in the history of poetry - ie, the metaphysical poets, the romantics, the imagists, the beats... just give me time, give me time.