During the time or the Romantic era, many poets were influenced by the serenity that nature possessed. However the one poet that touched everyone's hearts is John Keats. His sonnets, odes and poems were filled with nature imagery and diction and many more different literary devices. One of Keats's sonnets "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer" is an Italian sonnet that expresses the serenity and beauty of literature.
In an Italian sonnet there are two sections, the Octet, and the Sestet. The first section is called the Octet, which starts from line one and ends on line eight. The second section is called the Sestet and starts from line nine and ends on line 14. The Octet illustrates the general analogy between poetry and exploration and when it comes to the Sestet it illustrates a specific discovery. The Volta is seen when Keats says: "then" (Line 9), this word being the change of ideas in the sonnet. In the beginning Keats talks about his journeys around the world whereas after the Volta Keats links his views on Chapman's Homer with the discovery of the Pacific made by Cortez and his men.
The rhyme scheme in the Octet is a / b /b / a and in the Sestet it is c / d /e / c /d / e . Through the use of imagery, diction and tone, Keats expresses his ideas of astonishment and appreciation towards Chapman's Homer. In this sonnet, imagery is used to express Keats's feelings and viewpoint about Chapman's Homer. Keats uses nature imagery, imagery of discovery, water imagery and sense imagery to convey this idea.
The imagery of discovery illustrates the new insights that Keats had towards literature while reading Chapman's Homer. The first line of the Octet begins immediately by illustrating how Keats has: "travell'd in the realms of gold" (Line 1) which portrays the discoveries that Keats had found through the many: "western states." (Line 3) he has been. The second line further emphasizes the knowledge Keats has on literature as he has not only been in: "many western states," but only: "many goodly states and kingdoms" (Line 2) The imagery of discovery does not only portray the discoveries that Keats has made in the past but also the new discoveries he has found while reading Chapman's Homer. The idea of new discoveries is seen when Keats describes to the readers how he felt: "like some watch of the skies," (Line 9) and describes this excitement by comparing his feelings with an astronomers feelings: "when a new planet swims into," (Line 10) sight.
This image of something "new" opens up a new world of imagination and literature. Besides the imagery of discovery, the sense imagery further emphasizes the astonishment towards Chapman's Homer. Keats relates his discovery of Chapman's Homer with the discovery of the Pacific by Cortez as he: "star'd at the Pacific - and all his men look'd at each other with a wild surmise." (Line 12 - 13) Keats does not only illustrate the feelings of excitement he has towards Chapman's Homer but also illustrates the realization of nature's beauty. The various types of imagery are not the only key component that helps illustrate Keats's feelings towards Chapman's Homer but also from the use of diction.
Keats uses diction to portray the ideas of literature and imagination. The diction: "realms,"states,"kingdoms,"demesne," (Line 1 -3, 6) are used to symbolize the world of literature or imagination. Even though all these words mean has a similar definition, Keats uses these different words to illustrate the different literature there is in the world, the variety of versions of Homer. When Keats says that he has never: "breath its pure serene," (Line 7) it conveys the idea of how throughout the many readings of different versions of Homer, Keats is has never read something so full of imagination and knowledge. Another key word that illustrates Keats's admiration towards Chapman's Homer is: "gold." (Line 1) The gold in this sonnet is a metaphor for imagination. Keats finds imagination as important and valuable as gold, without it, one cannot create such a masterpiece.
It is not just these words that help emphasize the significance of imagination but also the style in which the diction is used. In the Octet Keats uses past tense such as: "have I travell'd," (Line 1) "have I been," (Line 3) "had I been told" (Line 5) in order to show the effect that is has on the speaker. By using "I" it connects the readers with speaker's feelings of excitement and astonishment. The diction of the sense further highlights the connection between the reader and the speaker. The words such as: "breathe," (Line 7) and "loud and bold," (Line 8) allows the readers not to just see the wonders of literature and imagination that Keats experienced but also to smell, and hear them. With tone incorporated with diction and imagery, it heightens the effect on the reader to feel as if they are experiencing the feelings that Keats had while reading Chapman's Homer.
The tone is used to create an atmosphere similar to what Keats was going through while discovering new boundaries of literature and imagination. In the Octet the tone is very soft and calm as Keats describes the journeys he has made and the literature and imagination that he has found. The change of tone is seen when Keats says: "Yet did I never breathe its pure serene." (Line 7) However in the Sestet the tone is very cheerful and excited as it illustrates the: "new planet" (Line 10) being found by Keats. The excitement is seen when Keats describes Cortez's men looking "at each other with wild surmise," (Line 13) this shows how Keats was like these men, stunned and aroused by the vast new world of literature and imagination that is yet to be found. The use of imagery, diction and tone, Keats illustrates his feelings towards Chapman's Homer in a similar way with Cortez and his men finding the Pacific. From reading this sonnet I feel as if I was able to connect with Keats's feelings for a moment and come to a realization how important imagination is and the beauties of nature..