Homer’s Odyssey has been the great tale of adventure and human relationships that has come down to us through the ages from when it was first written down three thousand years ago. No-one knows if there ever was an individual called Homer or whether the stories were a collection of bardic tales that had gradually come together throughout the telling. In the eighteenth century the poet Chapman (another story resides there) translated them in a form of great beauty and humanity. This is what fired keates’ somewhat wonky imagination.
On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
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-browed 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.