5/26/2019

"On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer" by John Keats as a sonnet.


A sonnet is a short lyric poem of fourteen iambic pentameter lines linked by an intricate rhyme scheme. It is a lyric because it can be tuned to a lyre, a musical instrument. Each of its fourteen lines consists of five feet (also known as metres) for which it is called pentameter. Again each of the five feet consists of an unaccented and an accented syllables for which it is called iambic. “On First looking into Chapman's Homer”, is a sonnet because it consists of fourteen iambic pentameter lines with some variations-
Múch hável I trávl ell'd inl the reálms| of góld
And mán| y goód] ly státes and kingl doms seén
Round mán! y wéstl ern ísl lands hável 1 beén
Which bárds| in feáll ty tol A pól] lo hóld.
The above lines are written in iambic pentameter with the following variations. The first foot of the first line is trochaic while
the third foot of the last line is pyrrhic.

There are generally four recognised types of sonnets: (a)
Petrarchan, (b) Spenserian, (c) Miltonic and, (d) Shakespearean. The Petrarchan sonnet has two parts: an octave, the first eight lines, and the sestet, the last six lines. The octave sets and states the subject matter while the sestet confirms and develops it. On First Looking into Chapman's Homer is a Petrarchan sonnet because it is divisible into an octave and a sestet. The octave deals with Keats's reading of much good poetry, especially the works of the poets of western Europe, and the sestet expresses his feelings on reading Chapman's translation of Homer into English.

The rhyme scheme of different types of sonnets is different. The rhyme scheme of a Petrarchan octave is ab ba ab ba and that of a
sestet is either cd cd cd or cdc cdc or cde cde. The Shakespearean sonnet rhymes as abab cded efef gg and the rhyme scheme of an
Sepnserian sonnet is abab bcbc cdcd ee. If we look at On First Looking into Chapman's Homer we find that the sonnet rhymes as ab ba ab ba cd cd cd which resembles the Petrarchan sonnet.

The Petrarchan sonnet is divided by a pause into octave and sestet. The pause at the end of the octave is followed by a volta or turn in the thought, which implies that the thought, though it has not been dropped, is given a new application, or summarised, in the sestet. Keats has not used pause at the end of the octave of his sonnet. On First Looking into Chapman's Homer, but the unity of the whole poem is well preserved.

The theme of the conventional Petrarchan sonnet is generally love, mainly sensual love. But the theme of Keats's On First Looking
into Chapman Homer is not love. The subject of the poem is reading Keats read the poetry of the great poets like Spenser, Shakespeare
and Milton. But he was unable to read the great epics of Homer because these epics were written in Greek and Keats did not know
that language. Then he became able to read Homer by means of Chapman's translation of Homer into English. On reading Chapman's translation, he gets extremely excited. He compares his feelings to those of an astronomer when he discovers a new planet and to those of Cortez when he discovers the Pacific Ocean.

Therefore On First Looking into Chapman's Homer is Petrarchan sonnet. The emotion it suggests is pure, intense and sublime. It expresses a single idea. Among the shorter poems, this sonnet is Keats's beat poetic gem.

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