Better than WTF – Emotional Insight from Keats

Vik RubenfeldPoemLeave a Comment

We’ve all had WTF moments. Keats put how he felt about one into a very famous poem.

A translation of Homer had just come out, by a translator named Chapman. Keats had just been reading it with a friend of his. Then Keats went home and wrote this poem about it. If you want, just skip right to the red part:

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 stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

That metaphor at the end about Cortez is pretty kick-ass. (Even though actually it was Balboa, not Cortez, who discovered the Pacific Ocean.) And I think it’s pretty easy to get. It’s that feeling of WTF that we’ve all experienced. Do you feel it?

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