Aesthetic Epistemology

A comparison and contrast of two poetic exemplifications of aesthetic theories in works by John Keats and Charles Simic.

This paper examines John Keats’ On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
and Charles Simic’s `Stone`. It shows that, in both of these poems, one written during the Romantic era of English letters, the other a modern expression of poetic and personal development as mirrored in the natural world, the central conflict is: how can the poet apprehend and appreciate what is beautiful outside himself` It also asks what kind of beauty enriches human life and expression and how is this achieved.
`Keats thus adapts the Elizabethan love and faith in structured, ordered, and beautiful expressions of cerebral thought, even for romantic ideals, in his sonnet. In Keats’ case, however, the subject matter is not Shakespeare’s fair young man or dark lady, but the text of Homer. The choice of a romantic, rarified, logical yet passionate form is thus quite a deliberate plea, upon Keats’ part, to parallel affection for a woman or beloved friend with affection for a once-inaccessible yet beautiful literary text and tradition. As sonnets were used to open the hearts of cold or chaste females, so the translation of Chapman has opened the heart of Keats to a form of poetic expression, once closed, like a stone a stone, unlike the runes upon the inside of Simic’s stone, that can be opened.