“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” A reference to this sonnet about George Chapman’s seventeenth-century translations appears in Vladimir Nabokov’s 1962 novel Pale Fire. The book’s fictional poet writes, “From the local Star / A curio: Red Sox Beat Yanks 5–4 / On Chapman’s Homer, thumbtacked to the door.” Some readers have claimed this is a reference to a local newspaper’s headline for an article about Boston outfielder Ben Chapman. But Chapman only once hit a home run in a Red Sox victory over the Yankees—and the game’s score was 8–4.
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
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 stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.