When I Have Fears Questions and Answers
by John Keats

Start Your Free Trial

What best describes the conclusion Keats makes?

Expert Answers info

Colin Cavendish-Jones, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Lawyer

bookM.A. from Oxford University

bookPh.D. from St. Andrews University


calendarEducator since 2019

write2,273 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Keats wrote this sonnet a year before his death. His parents were sickly and short-lived and so was his brother, Tom, so he had good reason to fear the passage of time. His first concern is that he will not be able to write the poetry of which he knows he is capable. Then he thinks that he will never know the joys of love.

The conclusion of the sonnet, however, is ambiguous:

- then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
The verb "think" has no direct object. Perhaps thought (in the sense of consciousness, rather than reasoning or intellection) is enough of a miracle, making love and fame sink into nothingness by comparison with the mystery of the human experience. Or it may be that everything, all his hopes and dreams sink into nothing as he contemplates their futility in solitude. A third possibility is that this ambiguity may be intentional and Keats may have had both experiences. This sense of uncertainty between joy and despair is most characteristic of Keats's poetry and his view of life.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial