Original First Paragraph and Revision

Here is my original opening paragraph

In John Keats’s sonnet, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” the speaker describes the revelation he experiences when he reads George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for the first time.  Chapman’s Homer unveils to him a new world of poetic clarity and immediacy that nearly overwhelms him, despite the fact that he has often “traveled in the realms of gold” (1).  In order to convey the speechless ecstasy evoked by the translation, the speaker uses two similes that compare his discovery and awe with that of an astronomer discovering a new planet and Cortez first looking upon the vast Pacific.  Besides being a sublime moment in itself, the speaker’s discovery, or rediscovery, of Homer through Chapman also makes him realize that a whole new world exists outside the “goodly states and kingdoms” of his acquaintance (2).  This new world of poetic experience that Chapman opens for the speaker is described in striking images of nature.  The sight of the new planet and particularly the view of the Pacific Ocean stun their viewers to “silence” with their power and beauty (14).  These images are contrasted with the earthly artifice of the “realms of gold,” and suggest that the speaker admires Chapman’s Homer because the translation seeks a more authentic re-creation of the original Greek, a translation that speaks out “loud and bold,” unencumbered by contrivance and embellishment (1,8).

For the revision I kept the first part which introduces the subject of the paper mostly intact. The alterations are drawn from comments in other parts of the paper where the argument was more clear, and some entirely new work which hopefully clarifies the position I am arguing.

In John Keats’s sonnet, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” the speaker describes the revelation he experiences when he reads George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for the first time.  In order to convey the speechless ecstasy evoked by the translation and the conclusions he draws from the experience, the speaker uses two similes that compare his discovery and awe with that of an astronomer discovering a new planet and Cortez first looking upon the vast Pacific.  In making these comparisons that draw on the beauty and sublimity of nature the speaker realizes that the greatest artistic achievements are not those created in “fealty” to an aesthetic tradition, but rather those that seek to produce a natural and purer form of art that is “loud and bold” (4, 8).  The implication of the speaker’s revelation that form and tradition should not contain or restrict poetry seems paradoxical considering that he has chosen the rigid, tightly defined form of the Petrarchan sonnet to express these feelings.  This makes him similar to the “bards” who write in “fealty” to the conventions of form, but in the sestet the form and meter undergo subtle but important changes that reflect the speaker’s altered perception on how to create art (4).  A similar alteration occurs in the imagery of the sestet as it goes from that of earthly artifice – the “realms of gold”—to striking images of nature (1).  The evocative and transformative power that Chapman’s Homer exerts on the speaker drives him to seek a means of expression that is both natural and free, and through the alterations he makes to the conventional form the speaker is also inviting the reader, through the familiar structure of the sonnet, to share his experience with a new kind of poetry that is “loud and bold” (8).

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2 Responses to “Original First Paragraph and Revision”

  1. ekkelly Says:

    Your new intro is much tighter and more focused, and does a good job of taking a step back from the argument within the poem to think about how the poem relates to the sonnet form itself. What I think needs a bit more clarification is how “the speaker has a new perspective on how to create art”. Rather than presenting another complication– changing from “realms of gold” to nature, I’d go ahead and venture an answer to that question, that you’ll then put alongside the realms of gold/ nature dichotomy later. (I assume you mean the following sentence about speaking out loud and bold to be an answer, but it gets a bit muddled as to what precisely this means).

  2. That is a fantastic revision, Brian. Excellent work!

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