1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Keats

Leigh Hunt, in "Young Poets" The Champion (1 December 1816) 761.



The last of these young aspirants whom we have met with, and who promise to help the new school to revive Nature and "To put a spirit of youth in every thing," — is, we believe, the youngest of them all, and just of age. His name is JOHN KEATS. He has not yet published any thing except in a newspaper; but a set of his manuscripts was handed us the other day, and fairly surprised us with the truth of their ambition, and ardent grappling with Nature. In the following Sonnet there is one incorrect rhyme, which might be easily altered, but which shall serve in the mean time as a peace offering to the rhyming critics. The rest of the composition, with the exception of a little vagueness in calling the regions of poetry "the realms of gold;" we do not hesitate to pronounce excellent, especially the last six lines. The word "swims" is complete; and the whole conclusion is equally powerful and quiet:—

ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN'S HOMER.
Much have I travel'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;
But of one wide expanse had I been told,
That deep-brow'd Homer rul'd as his demesne;
Yet could I never judge what men could mean,
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 a stout CORTEZ, when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific, — and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise,—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
JOHN KEATS
Oct. 1816.

We have spoken with the less scruple about these poetical promises, because we really are not in the habit of lavishing praises and announcements, and because we have no fear of any pettier vanity on the part of young men, who promise to understand human nature so well.