This is the full text of the sonnet whose final four lines are quoted at the head of the first chapter of Swallows and Amazons. For more about its importance, and the possible location of the ‘Peak of Darien’ in the story, see my previous post.
The poem was written by John Keats in October 1816, when he was just 20 or 21 years old (his birthday was on the 31st of the month), and is full of the sense of possibilities and prospects unfolding. Sadly, much of the promise was unfulfilled as he died, from tuberculosis, early in 1821 when he was still only 25.
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 star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.