Monday, April 01, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part V

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 did I never 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.

--John Keats

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What I am trying to get at-- the poet portrays himself as an explorer, his reading as an exploration, and gives Cortez, a real explorer, poetic sensibilities, emotions. Do I think Keats' imaginative discoveries are real discoveries? How could they be? And yet I am uncertain about this. Maybe they were. Did Cortez or his men experienced poetic awe and wonder? I seriously doubt it. Keats speaks of a realm of gold--  a realm of treasure, of spiritual treasure. And surely Keats's works can be said to have added to this realm of treasure. Keats explorations enrich a realm of riches.  Cortez's travels are indeed to a realm of gold--which he and his men mercilessly plundered. The poetic act is virtuous and beautiful, but not real. The real act was overwhelmingly vicious and vile.    

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