John Keats

(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821 / London, England)

When I Have Fears - Poem by John Keats


When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
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.

Form: Sonnet


Comments about When I Have Fears by John Keats

  • Veteran Poet - 1,531 Points Naida Nepascua Supnet (6/2/2015 10:38:00 PM)

    Keats will always let his readers ponder on verses he wrote.
    And we will always find the essence of his poems and use them in our lives. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Freshman - 832 Points Matthew Holloway (3/28/2015 12:37:00 PM)

    a beautiful perfection awaits in all of John Keats work (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,308 Points Godfrey Morris (3/9/2015 8:38:00 PM)

    Poetry for the mind. Great write. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 31,784 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (6/22/2014 2:15:00 AM)

    Of the wide world world I stand alone and think......It is nice to read. The great poet's great poem and it is wonderful beyond words of appreciation.It has no barriers of country, It has no barriers of belief, It has the unity of mind the universal I think. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 16,729 Points * Sunprincess * (6/18/2014 11:57:00 AM)

    ~ Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
    Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.~
    ...........in the end to nothingness we sink
    .........not love or riches will be of any consequence
    ........the only thing which will remain is our legacy (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 13,409 Points Terry Craddock (2/19/2014 3:01:00 PM)

    The essence of this poem 'When I Have Fears' by John Keats, is his fear that he will die long before he has a chance to write, to quote Keats, 'Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain'. Keats laments the fact he will die before he has had a chance to study richly in depth, 'Before high-piled books, in charactery, Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain'. Keats lacks the time to study 'distinctive qualities', in subjects which are fields of interest for him, and to develop his ideas into fruition on these subjects. Keats will probably have no time for romance for love, which be sadly reflects upon as

    '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'

    This depth of feeling, this loss over love not to be known, lived, enjoyed is extended with

    '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; '

    It becomes obvious that even more than the pain Keats' feels, over what he will never live to write, is the fear of dying, without the hope of the love that a longer live; should have guaranteed. These thoughts dominate and haunt his mind as 'then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think'; clearly prove.

    Keats begins this poem with the statement and declaration 'When I have fears that I may cease to be' and expanses the reasons for this fear, finally rounding up his thoughts with the ultimate fear and reason for this fear that he feels, 'Till love and fame to nothingness do sink'. Keats is afraid that he will die and be swiftly forgotten.

    While we who read Keats mourn his short life, we celebrate the richness, quality and quantity of all he achieved in such a short life. For genuine lovers of poetry Keats will never be forgotten. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 31,784 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (2/19/2014 7:18:00 AM)

    The poet's inborn feeling of fear is beautifully carved out in this poem and the powerful words with lot of emotions wonderfully told the sad feeling and words combinations is exceptionally good. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,830 Points Paul Reed (2/19/2014 4:00:00 AM)

    Words in such combinations and written with such perception take your breath away (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Carlos Echeverria (2/19/2013 10:25:00 AM)

    The love in his heart guides his words to sonnet perfection. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,276 Points Shahzia Batool (2/19/2013 3:13:00 AM)

    @Manonton Dalan...it's right to talk about the living poets, but the literary giants can never be replaced...or ignored! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Mostafa Gazi (1/1/2013 1:06:00 PM)

    that is why we love uuu (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Roisin Murphy (5/23/2012 6:25:00 PM)

    My favourite Keats poem! I love his romantic style of writing. I love his morose themes. I love his use of metaphors. I love his honesty.
    Also, it's so easy to relate to. Everybody is afraid of dying before they've accomplished in life what they set out to. And it's a credit to him to have left such a legacy in such a short life.
    I have yet to come across a poem of his that doesn't leave a mark.
    These two lines are just haunting in my opinion, I could never get them out of my head.
    And think that I may never live to trace
    Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Amatulla Mohammadi (2/19/2012 12:28:00 PM)

    you are the best keats! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Anu Sipps (2/19/2012 9:17:00 AM)

    fear is the greatest weakness of one self so well explained (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 300 Points Manonton Dalan (2/19/2012 4:14:00 AM)

    it's all fear. i hear people talk
    about their fear not necessarily
    death but simple like getting late.
    (poem of the day; this poem will
    show again 19feb2913 and so as other
    poems every year, i wish poemhunter
    do something different... like put some
    of the poems of still living poets, maybe
    we have opportunity to know first hand
    from poet. our interpretation could be
    different.) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 9 Points Herman Chiu (2/20/2010 12:47:00 AM)

    What an excellently pure comment on a man's fears! (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 990 Points Sadiqullah Khan (2/19/2010 11:39:00 PM)

    This is an enlightening critique on this wonderful poem, Terence. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terence George Craddock (2/19/2010 5:25:00 AM)

    Keats is not expressing a fear of death. TB has already killed his mother and brother. He bemoans the fact the he is afraid, that his exhausting fight with his disease, will kill him before he can write ‘high-piled books’. His pen pours out sometimes prematurely, as much as he is able to write in ill health, ‘glean'd my teeming brain’ his words ‘in charactery’; he reminds twice his works are ‘Before... the full ripen'd grain’. He like his work is harvested too soon. It is his ‘high romance’ that he grieves the most stating, ‘And think that I may never live to trace.... That I shall never look upon thee more’. He moved to Italy, in a desperate attempt to prolong his life in a warmer climate, writing a final year, alone he writes and thinks; works alone in ‘the wide world’ until his dreams of ‘love and fame’, with his last vestiges of energy, sink into ‘nothingness’. Fanny Brawne, his ‘fair creature of (but) an hour’ and Keats, can never marry due to his ill health and financial situation, thus thoughts of her and fame; both denied him, pull upon his heart in his last declining days. Ware thee well Keats. (Report) Reply

    Rookie - 0 Points Mirella Newmann (6/5/2015 4:51:00 PM)

    Também tenho medo. A boca não pode gritar o meu grito! ...Mirella

  • Rookie - 142 Points Joseph Poewhit (2/19/2010 1:48:00 AM)

    A real deep poem of inner contemplation. Note the era, with books piled high, and a state of solitude. What seems to be missing, is the call of devine inspiration from GOD. Leaving an emptiness in the being of Keats. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,167 Points Ramesh T A (2/19/2010 1:45:00 AM)

    A genuine fear of Keats makes him feel and say what will happen before his potential ability develops to fruition! It is really heartening to read about the thoughts of his demise soon before he achieves fame in his profession due to dejection, a consequence of his failure in love affair with Fanny Browne! As he thought his life too ended soon; otherwise he would have achieved a fame like Shakespeare it was believed! High class sonnet to read! (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: romance, magic, power, alone, world, night, love, fear



Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002



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