John Keats Essay

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In his English sonnet “When I Have Fears” (pg. 17, Vendler), John Keats attempts to put into words the human emotions felt when dealing with death. I believe that Keats wrote this poem to describe the natural order of emotions he went through while thinking of his own mortality. The tone of the sonnet takes a “roller coaster” course throughout the poem from one quatrain to the next. With careful examination one can see that Keats used the first quatrain to describe a state of utter confusion, the second to express a calm and bittersweet feeling, the third to describe a feeling of immense fear, and the final couplet to express a feeling of acceptance. The first quatrain deals with the first of four emotions that Keats expresses throughout the sonnet. The first line, “When I have fears that I may cease to be” (pg. 17, Vendler) immediately tells the reader that this is a poem about John Keats’ fear of death. The fact that he says, “When I have fears…” leads me to believe that these fears are not an everyday experience, but a common occurrence that bothers him from time to time. It is also in this quatrain that Keats uses agricultural metaphors to describe his fears of death. In the second line, “Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,” (pg. 17, Vendler) we see the first of these metaphors with the use of the word “gleaned.” If something is gleaned it implies that it is being raked, scraped, or sorted with some kind of farming or gardening tool. The other important word in this second line is “teeming”, which is synonymous to swarming, packed, or crowded. When Keats describes his “teeming brain,” one can imagine millions of thoughts and fears running rampant throughout his mind, leaving him in a state of utter confusion. This entire second line is intended to tell us that by writing this sonnet, Keats is “raking” or sorting all of the fears that have cluttered his mind. The third line of the sonnet also supports the notion that Keats was overloaded with dread and...
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