John Keats has written the poem ‘When I Have Fears’ to express one of the most ineluctable feelings that one can have; the fear of death. “When I Have Fears” represents the admire and hunger for greater poetry, and wish for realizing the dreams of love and fame: selfish desire of human-being. Thus, what poet fears is being unable to fulfill his dreams. The title ‘When I Have Fears’ is also quite clue-giving: Keats fears the time he will die will come, although what he fears most is what he would leave behind when he died: love, fame and composing new poetry.
He fears not being able to live and experience the honorable moments of life. (It is known that Keats had experienced much loss as a boy; also he died very young, at age of 26). As in a typical sonnet, this main theme is developed through all quatrains of the poem. Writing in an informal manner, the poet does not spesifically adress to someone, but to whom also reader can emphatize. The purpose of the author could be figured out by the reader: To express and share a pained mood. Therefore, the poet uses direct speech in order to create a sincere, sharing atmosphere with the reader.
In addition to this, the poem has an intimate though a sorrowful tone. Keats reflects the tone and the main theme by composing assorted vocabulary, grammatical structures and figurative, non-standard language. For instance, at first line: ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ the meaning conveyed is quite literal on account of the choice of words of the poet. The phrase “cease to be” has a rather lasting connotation than the verb “die”. Instead of just dying, it is as if his entire existence is rubbed off from earth and other’s memories.
In order to intensify the emphasis on ‘undesired death’, at first quatrain the poet remarks his worry about leaving the world before having the chance to write, by personifying a pen: “Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain” The poet uses figurative language for demonstrating the continuity of creativeness of his own. At last two lines of the first quatrain, Keats emphasizes once again how fertile his imagination is and how much he has to express before his death; by using the imagery of the harvest.
In the Shakespearean metaphor of “garners”, “full-ripen’d grain,” thoughts and writing are associated with the natural world, time, food and the seasons. Also books (“high-piled books”) are similar to bread made from wheat; the work of the artist requires time to grow, harvest, and store. A harvest obviously yields some valuable products as reflected in the grain being “full ripen’d” and the garners being “rich”. Likewise, the work of a poet is much more valuable and appraised after some time of being produced: this is one reason for the author’s desire to catch up the time and increase his recognition, rather than to die at a young age.
In order to convey this message and raise emotions in the reader, he uses intense and metaphorical adverbs, adjectives and uncommon words such as “glean’d” , “teeming” , “high-piled” , “charact’ry” , “rich” , “full ripen’d”. The ‘-e’ sound in ‘gleaned’, ‘full-ripened’, ‘charactery’ is not spelled in text, but an apostrophe is used instead. Therefore, the dialect at the first quatrain differs from that of the entire poet. Another phonological feature is the alliteration of the words “glean’d,” garners,” and “grain”.
The repetition of ‘-g’ consonant in the first quatrain has an effect on subconscious of the reader, the message is stronger and more solid due to the powerful connotations of that sound. Besides, the nature imagery helps the poet create an atmosphere at second quatrain. He himself, could get inspiration from the beauty of nature; especially from the sky. “Night’s- starr’d face” represents the starred sky as a symbol of glory and infinity, beyond the limitations.
Also “Huge cloudy symbols” gives an impression of the wide and unreachable sky and “the magic hand” of the poet reflects the stunning nature in his great works. That’s why Keats fears that he will die before he can “trace their shadows. ” ‘Tracing one’s shadow’ describes the fear of dying before writing great poetry. ‘Their’ as a possessive pronoun symbolizes whom the poet composes his poetry for. While Keats uses a vocabulary that could apply to a mortal woman, he could mean an imagined vision of a godlike being: “And when I feel, a fair creature of an hour! That I shall never look upon thee more”.
A fair creature’ could be telling about a real woman, (in many of Keats’ biographies it was declared so, even some say it could be representing his fiancee) although the connotations of the following line may suggest that it is a symbol of divine love. : “Never have I relish the faery power of unreflecting love! “. ‘The faery power’ appears as the spiritual power of a divine love, but not a mortal one. The love Keats wishes to enjoy would be represented directly; it is the ‘unreflecting’ love of God: By the time he tastes the love of the Holy, he will not ever be seeking for any other experience of love.
Nevertheless, Keats’ many poems are directly or indirectly related to inner conflicts of human, he often associates love and pain, the opposite sides, in his poetry. Likewise, in ‘When I Have Fears’ the poet changes his mind as he resolves his fears by asserting the unimportance, worthlessness of love and fame in the couplet. He suddenly returns to the rather unexciting “shore of the wide world”, where he is on the edge of life and death, feeling lonely and judging once again his strong desires for love and recognition:. then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone, and think, till love and fame to nothingness do sink” He realizes that whatever he does, he will end up dying.
All of these other things such as fame, poetry, greatness and love, “to nothingness do sink”, become worthless for him because he is going to die anyway. The grammatical structure of the poem also associates with the main theme. The usage of personal pronoun ‘I’ and possessive pronoun ‘my’ throughout the poem, indicates that the poem is written in first person. . g. :’When I have fears … ‘ ‘Before my pen… ‘ ‘my teeming brain… ‘, ‘And when I feel… ‘. The author as ‘the persona’ is adressing to the reader and confessing his deep feelings; helplessness, fear of dying and wish to live. Besides, the repitition of the relative pronoun ‘when’ (“When I.. “, “and when I.. “) maintains the flow of futuristic thoughts, and indicates the persistance of lifetime, throughout the poem. ‘When I have fears… ‘, ‘When behold upon the night’s starr’d face’, ‘And when I feel… ‘.
At the end of the poem, the ideas of the poet are resolved as ‘then’ appears. : ‘then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone… ‘ . The poet faces the death while his fear of not being loved and recognized fades away. The poem consists of long sentences; which however run from one line to another. Keats does not use very much coordinated structures in his poem; only the conjunction “and” appears in second and third quatrains, meanwhile; juxtaposition by commas and semicolons are used in almost every line to pause and emphasize the tragical feeling.
On the other hand, there are no full stops used in the text. The enjambment that poet uses also makes the sense carried over from one line to the other and maintains the reader’s contact with the text. Although semi-colons are used for pauses at the end of the first two quatrains, the major interruption takes place at the last line of third quatrain with an exclamation mark. :”Of unreflecting love! “. It temporarily stops the flow of emotions and appears as the climax point of the poem, as the intensity of emotions are at its peak.
After the slowing down of poetic rhythm, the caesura at the end of third quatrain, rapidly reaccelarates the poem by connecting to the last idea, couplet. The form of the poem is also influencing for the conveyance of main idea and purpose of the poet. This poem, consisting of three quatrains and a couplet, is written as a liric poetry and the meter of the poem is Iambic: A fourteen line Iambic pentameter written in the form of a Sonnet. The metrical pattern of the poem creates a rhythm; the stressed – distressed syllables signifies the collapsed, altering mood of the poet.
Also the poem is printed in zig-zag format, which stimulates the alteration of ideas and feelings. ) Sonnets, traditionally have three rhyme sounds in the octave; one of the first two rhyme sounds repeats in the second quatrain. Here the vowel rhyme “romance’ and “chance” in the second quatrain are similar to “brain’ and ‘grain” in the first quatrain as the “n” sounds are alike. The poem has the classical pattern in rhyme, a typical property of a sonnet: A-B-A-B, C-D-C-D… in the three quatrains, until the couplet which rhymes G-G.