November 18, 2004

Poetic License

Enoch Soames, Esq., is celebrating Bobby Burns, the National Poet of Scotland.....the only poet of and here, and includes a link to one of the more appalling literary traditions, the Burns Supper. (Yes, I am of Scots descent. No, wild horses would never induce me to eat haggis.)

On the other hand, Mr. Soames also has a post up on Mr. John Keats, five foot two and one of my very favorite poets, including a nifty link to a page of original manuscript images.

Just because, let's trot out one of our favorite Keats poems, "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-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 stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Of course, it was Balboa who discovered the Pacific, not Cortez. But "Stout Balboa" doesn't sound well. This was the subject of a passage in a work of fiction that I know I read many times when I was younger, but just can't remember. I seem to recall the conversation was between a brother and sister. Sound familiar to anyone?

Posted by Robert at November 18, 2004 12:39 PM | TrackBack

You have something against a little liver and lights? Or is it the oatmeal you don't like? I think haggis is great and I'm not even a Scot.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at November 18, 2004 01:11 PM

Today Keats' mentioning of Cortez instead of Balboa is no more considered a mistake. Having read Robertson's History of America, the poet was well aware that Balboa had discovered the Pacific before Cortez came there. Identifying himself with the latter, Keats displayed his own situation: He was reading Chapman's translation instead of the greek original, thus metaphorically moving in Chapman's footsteps.

Posted by: ES at November 18, 2004 01:12 PM

Children's Story: We at our house (seven children) felt that leap of joy one feels on hearing another reference a book one loves. But after that first start of recognition, we are now blushing at possibily mistaking one friend for another.

Our first thought was E. Nesbit. Then we narrowed it down to House of Arden, but then we thought, no, perhaps Five Children and It. Then we self doubted some more and wondered about the Railway Children as an also possibility.

Then we meditated upon the phrase "silent on a peak in Darien..." and as we pondered it, we attempted to channel the literary spirit of the character in a beloved children's book who said it... and we have it.

We think our old friend ARthur Ransome and the Swallows and Amazons crew are the auld acquaintances you have forgot (for shame). We have hurt our brains with the effort, so cannot narrow it down further. There are several books in teh series and all are worth a happy perusing adn rereading.

Posted by: Wendi Sue at November 18, 2004 02:13 PM

I'd never understood the Cortez reference to be a mistake of ignorance, just a little poetic license to give the line more bite. The metaphorical interpretation Mr. Soames mentions is a new one to me. Then again, I've been out of the study years now. I'll have to chew on that one for a bit.

As for the children's book reference, I'll go ahead and reveal that my Prime Suspect at the moment is Sterling North's "Rascal", a story about his childhood experience of raising a raccoon cub. I read that book over and over again and cried every time at the end when the boy had to let the raccoon go back to the wild. (This was in part because we raised an orphaned raccoon cub ourselves when I was a boy and, like North, had to let him go when he got big.) I don't know why and may be completely mistaken, but for some reason I associate this book with the "Stout Balboa" discussion.

Posted by: Robert the LB at November 18, 2004 02:35 PM

Definitely Arthur Ransome and the Swallows and Amazons. One of the chapter headings is "Peak in Darien."

The four siblings are John, Susan, Titty (I'm sorry, that is her nickname), and Roger. Then there are the Amazons- two sisters who go by the names Nancy and Peggy.

Another famous line is "Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won't drown."

Posted by: Wendi Sue at November 22, 2004 09:29 AM

Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water. W. C. Fields (1880 - 194

Posted by: automobile loan refinance at November 23, 2004 07:35 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?