Poetry: When I have fears that I may cease to be by John Keats [1795 – 1821]

Poetry is one of the single most beautiful arts that humans have ever created. I am no expert, have no vast knowledge and am far from being well versed on the subject, however, I know what I enjoy. Poems are an expression of the soul where we lay all bare, disguised or blatant, for our peers to adore or condemn. In my teens I dabbled in writing ‘poetry’,1 some of it passable, most of it horrendous and all of it weird. While I no longer have that same drive to write creatively, or the teenage confusion which fired it, my enjoyment in discovering a good poem has never left me.

I began ofBooks specifically to write about what I was reading; to order the jumbled literary madness swimming through my mind. While this system has yet to fail me, it has its limits. A little poetry never hurt anyone, therefore sporadically I shall discuss my poetic adventures, travelling through my favourite poems.

Where better to begin than John Keats.

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 pil’d 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 feel 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.

Without meaning to be overly flowery about it, this poem makes my heart flutter. Keats intense anxiety at his capacity to fulfil his potential, his craving for fame and ‘high romance’ before time escapes him is consuming.

Suffering from Tuberculosis Keats died at 26, my age, I do not feel like I have created anything even slightly beautiful as Keats’ poetry, I doubt I ever will.

What I adore most about this poem is its ability to make2 me feel; often I feel desensitised and detached in this available and technological world with live in, to have something touch you in this manner is refreshing and a relief. I like to know I can still feel something.

  1. Or as I like to call it, self-involved drivel. []
  2. Allow? []
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