When I Have Fears

Notes on When I Have Fears by John Keats

WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be

(Scared of oblivion)

Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,

Won’t be able to get out his ideas- arrogant?

Before high piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;

Fears he will die before his works are published

When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

Won’t be able to look at beauty or experience love

And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;

Won’t be able to solve the mysteries of life

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!

(His lover, Fanny Brawne)

That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love! - then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

These last two lines are very important, because they can be interpreted in different ways. ‘Think’ represents life and ‘sink’ represents death, so they’re contrast in this last rhyming couplet emphasises the message within the poem: will Keats carry on thinking and writing or does the death idea give an impression of suicidal thoughts and depression? Is this poem negative or positive and how do the last two lines leave you feeling?

The idea of negative capability is also evident here– the last two lines create the sense of a sensory, solitary mood– separated from the landscape (half-state)

Supernatural semantic field
Darkness semantic field


When I have Fears

WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love! - then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.



© Keats' Kingdom 2004 - - All rights reserved.
Feel free to use any content here for study purposes, essays, reports etc.
But if you farm any content for use on other websites, I will know about it. Trust me.