Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Realms of Gold"

Today is Halloween and the birthday of the English poet John Keats, who described autumn as a "season of mist and mellow fruitfulness."

After two stormy days that were much closer to Percy Shelley's depiction of the season —"O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being" — I slip back into Keats's quiet vision. Autumn as a time of reflection and poetry, of observation and even of revelation.

Here is my favorite Keats poem, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer":

Much have I traveled 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 stared 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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