This Poem was written by the English Romantic Poet after staying up all night reading Homer with his instructor. I have written an analysis of the figurative language used in this poem. I hope you enjoy both the Poem and my analysis!
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 (5)
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; (10)
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 was proficient in literary readings as can be implied by the very first word in this poem, “MUCH”. This one word shows the reader that he was well learned in literature. Thus his described experience in reading one of Homer’s works is quite genuine. He uses imagery, extended metaphor, and allusion to demonstrate the grand time he had reading it with his instructor.
Imagery is used to a great extent in this rich piece of poetry. The speaker depicts beautiful visual images to describe the wondrous feelings that overcame him while reading Homer’s epic. In line 6 he describes Homer as, “deep-brow’d”. Wisdom is often portrayed as marks of age. Through this visualization of Homer’s wisdom, Keats instills in the reader his feelings for Homer’s excellent writing. The next image that he casts upon his reader’s eyes is found in line 9, “Then felt I like some watcher of the skies.” Here, Keats demonstrates that he felt the same awe in reading Homer that one feels when he sees the magnificence of our vast universe. Expounding upon the image of the skies, the next use of imagery, “when a new planet swims into his ken,” is found in line 10 and literally means when a new planet is found. As when an astronomer finds a new planet, so this literary scholar had found a wonderful piece of literature and he demonstrates this to his reader through powerful imagery.
There is a constant correlation between reading literature and traveling. This extended metaphor can first be noticed in line 1 where the speaker says, “MUCH have I travell’d in realms of gold,” speaking about his vast and glorious adventures in good books. He goes on to talk about this experience, showing that he values these works and memories. But these “realms of gold” (line 1) and “…kingdoms…” (line 2), are in no way comparable to the utter amazement found in reading Homer. In line 5, the use of “wide expanse” also lends to the traveling theme, as Keats is seen traveling deep into the Epic tales of Homer. This extended metaphor is wrapped up in lines 11-14 as Keats compares the explorer-Cortez and his findings to his discovery of such pleasing poetry for the first time.
This allusion to Cortez, mentioned in the previous paragraph, is quite interesting. Keats draws a neat parallel, as one does not often think of a historical figure from such a different time when reading Homer. The speaker relates to Cortez in that both men enjoyed, “staring” (line 12), at the beauty before them. Cortez enjoys gazing at the vast Ocean while Keats enjoys exploring the literary masterpiece, that is Homer’s writings. He also seems to identify with Cortez’ men who looked at, “a peak in Darien” (line 14), an Isthmus of Panama, with, “wild surmise” (line 13). Keats shows through this allusion that the he and the explorers enjoyed pondering their great discoveries.
John Keats skillfully uses imagery, extended metaphor, and allusion to reveal his escapade through one of Homer’s masterworks. His feelings are evident in these three different types of figurative language as he demonstrates his passion for solid literature and well written poetry with his artistic linguistic expressions.