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When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be by John Keats


This Elizabethan sonnet written by Keats is a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter containing three quatrains and a couplet. It is about his fear of death. However, unlike his other writings he writes about his fear of death not because of what comes after, but because of his failure to achieve love and fame.

Since "When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be" is an Elizabethan sonnet (also called a Shakespearean sonnet), it contains fourteen lines made up of three quatrains and a couplet. It rhymes as abab-cdcd-efef-gg.


When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be

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.

Written in 1818. Published in 1848.

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Literary Movement
Romanticism, 18th Century

Sonnet, Death, Love

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