“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” and Artistic Impact

“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” is a kind of ekphrastic poem written about the way that Keats felt during and after reading Homer’s epic poems. Before reading them, he was sure that he was not going to be blown away, as he had visited the places mentioned, or heard about Homer’s stories already. However, reading them gave him, briefly, the spirit of the conqueror Cortez, surveying lands he is about to take on what feels to Keats like a “new planet.” 

I really liked that Keats wrote this poem after being so inspired by a work of art, so after reading it I looked up “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” to see that it too has affected literary works. Apparently a children’s author named Arthur Ransome referenced it twice in his books. P.G. Wodehouse, the novelist, quoted the line “when a new planet swims into his ken” to describe the way someone else’s novel made him feel. I found the impact of this poem very poignant; it’s about how art made Keats feel, and then people have continued to write about how art makes them feel about and using this poem.

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