How might one summarize, line by line, John Keats's poem "When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Keats’s poem “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be” might be summarized as follows:

  1. When I worry that I may die
  2. Before I have been able to write everything I would like to write, including all the thoughts in my head,
  3. And that I may die before I have been able to write down in books
  4. All the ideas I have to express – ideas that are like ripe wheat;
  5. When I look up at the starry face of the night sky
  6. And see great clouds that make me think of lofty love,
  7. And when I realize that I may die before I have the chance to write about that kind of beauty and those kinds of thoughts
  8. By using talents for writing that sometimes seem enchanted,
  9. And when I think about that fact that you, oh beautiful but mortal person,

10.  Are someone I may never see again,

11.  And that I will never again enjoy the mystical joy

12.  Of my deep affection for you, then I feel as if I am on a beach

13.  As wide as the world and that I am all alone, and I think

14.  About these things until my thoughts of love and fame entirely vanish.

Or, as the final lines read in the original:

then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.



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