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John Keat's- "when i have fears that i may cease to be"
Posted by: Naomi (204.69.4.---)
Date: May 06, 2003 03:25PM

What is implyed by keat's poem, what can we learn about him by reading this poem?

Re: John Keat's- "when i have fears that i may cease to be"
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: May 07, 2003 01:39PM

It's been discussed before- you might try a search on 'all forums, all dates.'

I think that what we can learn is that - he loves, he fears death, he's afraid that his potential work will be lost, and beyond all that, that he realizes that it's this act of 'disappearance' that makes the world valuable.


When I Have Fears
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.

Re: John Keat's- "when i have fears that i may cease to be"
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: May 07, 2003 02:40PM

It's funny seeing this poem (which I know by heart) on the forum TODAY of all days, because it resonates with the movie I saw last night.

The movie is THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE. I am about to spoil the ending of the movie, so if you haven't seen the movie, you have my blessing and permission to stop reading right now.






For those who are still reading:

At the end of the movie we learn that guy narrating the story is on death row, writing his story for a magazine after being convicted of murder. The twist is, he DID murder someone (arguably in self-defense, but not innocently), but not the guy he was convicted of killing. So the whole questio of "justice" is a big tangle.

Anyway, he says near the end of the movie that when you know exactly when your death will occur, you get a kind of perspective as if you're viewing your life from above. AS YOU LIVE, he says, you're in a maze and all you can see is the passage or the obstacle in front of you. FROM "ABOVE," you can see the entire maze and make a completely different kind of sense of things, and find a kind of peace.

(But it's a Coen brothers movie, so that isn't the neat wrap-up it would be in a kinder, gentler movie.)

Cp. John Keats, contemplating his inevitable early death. He says: When I catch myself starting to panic because I'm going to die before I achieve LOVE AND FAME in a big way, I have to force myself to "stand alone" "on the shore of the wide world" "and think" -- and I can acheive a kind of perspective, a Big Picture in which these worldly ambitions become unimportant.

But he doesn't tell us WHAT he thinks, that gives him that Buddha-like detachment, darn him!

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