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Cortez at the Pacific Ocean

08 Jul

One of my all-time favorite poems is John Keats’ “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer,” where he expresses the moment of discovery of something unimagined.

The final image is a simile comparing Keats’ awe with that of Hernando Cortez and his men and how they must have felt when they topped a mountain in Darien (now called Panama) and were the first Europeans to sight the awesome power of the Pacific Ocean.

Pacific-Ocean_-2.jpg

From ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ – BY JOHN KEATS

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

 
 

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