It is not often realised that the world almost lost two of its greatest men of letters when Keats and Chapman were involved in an ill-fated attempt to circumnavigate the world. They had made it as far as the Pacific Ocean and sojourning in a beautiful island populated by a charming and industrious tribe. The pair were loath to take their leave from such an earthly paradise but were eventually called by a sense of duty and the spirit which built an empire.
The gentle natives replaced their provisions and sent off the two with a heavy load of gifts and mementoes of their visit. Our heroes had just left the farewell party when their poor little boat sprung a leak. Not panicking but assessing the situation quickly and deciding equally so upon their plan of action, they looked around for whatever vessel they could in order to start bailing out the water. They finally grasped the small water bottles which the natives of the island had fashioned themselves and began the laborious task of emptying the craft. They could not work quickly enough, however, to check the flow.
‘We must find a larger container to empty the boat!’ Chapman shouted, betraying a moment of panic and lapsing into uncharacteristic impatience. Keats, however, maintained sang froid during the crisis.
‘Yes,’ said he, ‘a pitcher is worth one thousand gourds.’
The pair were eventually rescued by a group of children swimming nearby.