When I Have Fears And Mezzo Cammin Comparison Essay

When I Have Fears and Mezzo Cammin Essay

783 WordsMar 10th, 20134 Pages

Irene Lee
Ms. Bufkin
AP Lit and Comp 6
11 April 2011
Timed Essay Corrections—When I Have Fears and Mezzo Cammin As people near the time of their deaths, they begin to reflect upon the history and events of their own lives. Both John Keats’ “When I have Fears” and Henry Longfellow’s “Mezzo Cammin” reflect upon the speakers’ fears and thoughts of death. However, the conclusions between these two poems end quite differently. Although both reflect upon Death’s grasp, Keats’ displays an appreciation and subtle satisfaction with the wonders of life, while Longfellow morbidly mourns his past inactions and fears what events the future may bring. The two poems are similar in their corresponding feeling of dread for death. Using diction,…show more content…

The speaker believes that love is hard to come by and that he is sad that he may not encounter it, since death is just around the corner. The speaker then also talks of “unreflecting love,” thus depicting that the speaker has never experienced real love and is unlikely to ever experience it, because he is so worried about death’s fast approach. However, at the end of “When I have Fears,” the speaker reflects that his goals for literary prowess and love are “nothingness” in comparison to the grand scope of things. There is hope after death, and Keats’ narrator finds solace in this. Although he has not achieved everything he had wanted, the speaker is still appreciative of what he was able to do. On the other hand, Longfellow’s speaker in “Mezzo Cammin” takes on a much more sorrowful and negative tone. Using diction of “half of my life,” “years slip,” and “not fulfilled,” Longellow shows that the speaker is really dreading and mourning his day to go. It seems that the speaker’s fear of death completely and irresolutely hinders him from accomplishing any of his goals. He is too busy being pessimistic about his life that he is unable to live in the present. He is also unable to dream into the future. Unlike Keats’ speaker, Longfellow’s speaker is completely stunted in from any possible growth. He is too stuck in the Past and its images of “smoking roof, soft bells, and gleaming lights.” This hazy

Show More

Classification of poem

Contents of Page


     Written in 1818, this poem expresses concerns that run through his poetry and his letters--fame, love, and time. Keats was conscious of needing time to write his poetry; when twenty-one, he wrote,

Oh, for ten years that I may overwhelm
Myself in poesy.
By age twenty-four--only three years later, he had essentially stopped writing because of ill health. There were times he felt confident that his poetry would survive him, "I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death." Nevertheless, the inscription he wrote for his headstone was, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

Definitions and Allusions

Line 2. glean: in this poem, Keats is using the meaning of collecting patiently or picking out laboriously.
          teeming: plentiful, overflowing, or produced in large quantities.

Line 3. charactery: printing or handwriting.

Line 4. garners: granaries or storehouses for grain.

Line 6.high romance: high = of an elevated or exalted character or quality; romance = medieval narrative of chivalry, also an idealistic fiction which tends not to be realistic.


     This poem falls into two major thought groups:

     The first quatrain (four lines) emphasizes both how fertile his imagination is and how much he has to express; hence the imagery of the harvest, e.g., "glean'd," "garners," "full ripen'd grain." Subtly reinforcing this idea is the alliteration of the key words "glean'd," garners," and "grain," as well as the repetition of r sounds in "charactery," "rich," "garners,"ripen'd," and "grain.". A harvest is, obviously, fulfillment in time, the culmination which yields a valued product, as reflected in the grain being "full ripen'd." Abundance is also apparent in the adjectives "high-piled" and "rich." The harvest metaphor contains a paradox (paradox is a characteristic of Keats's poetry and thought): Keats is both the field of grain (his imagination is like the grain to be harvested) and he is the harvester (writer of poetry).

     In the next quatrain (lines 5-8), he sees the world as full of material he could transform into poetry (his is "the magic hand"); the material is the beauty of nature ("night's starr'd face") and the larger meanings he perceives beneath the appearance of nature or physical phenomena ("Huge cloudy symbols") .

     In the third quatrain (lines 9-12), he turns to love. As the "fair creature of an hour," his beloved is short-lived just as, by implication, love is. The quatrain itself parallels the idea of little time, in being only three and a half lines, rather than the usual four lines of a Shakespearean sonnet; the effect  of this compression or shortening is of a slight speeding-up of time. Is love as important as, less important than, or more important than poetry for Keats in this poem? Does the fact that he devotes fewer lines to love than to poetry suggest anything about their relative importance to him?

     The poet's concern with time (not enough time to fulfill his poetic gift and love) is supported by the repetition of "when" at the beginning of each quatrain and by the shortening of the third quatrain. Keats attributes two qualities to love: (1) it has the ability to transform the world for the lovers ("faery power"), but of course fairies are not real, and their enchantments are an illusion and (2) love involves us with emotion rather than thought ("I feel" and "unreflecting love").

     Reflecting upon his feelings, which the act of writing this sonnet has involved, Keats achieves some distancing from his own feelings and ordinary life; this distancing enables him to reach a resolution. He thinks about the human solitariness ("I stand alone") and human insignificance (the implicit contrast betwen his lone self and "the wide world"). The shore is a point of contact, the threshold between two worlds or conditions, land and sea; so Keats is crossing a threshold, from his desire for fame and love to accepting their unimportance and ceasing to fear and yearn.

One thought on “When I Have Fears And Mezzo Cammin Comparison Essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *