In the two poems, “When I Have Fears” by John Keats and “Mezzo Cammin” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, both of the poets deal with the death that they believe is quickly approaching them and think back to their regrets in life. Keats during the time when this poem had been written had just seen his brother die of tuberculosis and due to this he believed he too would soon die. Longfellow at the time writing his poem had been 35 and due to this was most likely experiencing a mid-life crisis. Similarities between the two poems include the poem’s theme and the thoughts of death that the two men are dealing with. The main difference between the two poems deal with Keats’ fear of not being able to finish writing before he dies and shows this by the metaphors and structure. Longfellow‘s poem then in comparison shows the author dealing with his regrets for his life and not being able to move on from that with the use of imagery, diction and extended metaphor.
“When I Have Fears” covers many points on Keats fear of death that Longfellow does not. Keats mainly focuses on his goals of writing. Even in his first line we are able to see how much he fears death. He states that when he has fears that he “may cease to be”(Keats 1), in this understatement he shows his fear to even say the word death. Instead he replaces it with a less direct way of sharing his fear. Keats wishes to write so many books that the amount will be a huge pile of his works. Using “rich garners the full ripen’d grain”(4), gives an idea of the amount of book he pictures that he will write in the future. However, he fears that he “may never live to trace”(7), the glorious books that he will one day write. The use of the metaphor of clouds which you are not able to hold show that he really feels he will never be able to finish. He goes on to say that if he may not write his books that the whole world does not matter.
His devotion is shown greatly and it can be see that with the whole world full of possibility, all of it does not matter at all. The poem’s Shakespearian Sonnet structure separates the last two lines and makes it stand out. All of the things like “love and fame” (14), he knows will not matter in the end only his creations which will still be there for years after his death.In “Mezzo Cammin” Longfellow goes through the poem realizing all of the regrets he has with his life up to this point and thinks forward to his unknown future. Much of his life with goals he had wished to accomplish are at a standstill. All of the things he has left unaccomplished however he tells his audience that it was not from the distractions of life but due to being overly cautious. By saying “a care that almost killed”(Longfellow 7), he shows his wary approach to do anything in his life that may end in a bad result. Longfellow uses imagery and metaphors to show his life’s events in order.
By capitalizing the words “Past”(9), and “Death”(14), he personifies the events as if he sees both of the hill as tangible people. By capitalizing the two it also emphasizes the words as main points of the poem: his fear of death and his past regrets. To make the past’s feeling Longfellow uses word choices such as “smoking roofs”, ”lights” and “soft bell” for a cheerful feeling and uses “twilight dim” to show it as a distant thing that cannot be seen easily. Death is given word choices such as “autumnal” and “thundering” to give a further feeling of the death and doom those words give. The large difference between the feelings that past and death give his perspective on what he thinks of the two and strengthen the idea of his fear of death.The two poems correspond to one another through similar themes and details covered. Both the writers deal with the regrets that they will have in their lives with a negative tone.
Their aspiration to continue to write is experienced by them both although by Keats in a higher amount. Keats expresses this through lines 1-12 of his poem and Longfellow by his goal “to build/Some tower of song with lofty parapet” (2-3), because he too is a writer. The two poem’s structure included a rhyming scheme in order to point out important phrases and lines in the poems, such as the ending couplet in Keats’ poem.Both of the poems have similar themes throughout their poems as well. Although they are expressed differently they both share a theme dealing with time moving by quickly and to live a life with no regrets.The similarities in the poem deal with similar topics expressed throughout the poem dealing with Keats’ and Longfellow’s fear of death.
Differences between the two include the structure and the different images, metaphors and diction that they give off along with their different train of thoughts while writing the two poems. Their thoughts of the subject of death are able to relate to a variety of people because everyone is just human and cannot last forever. Just as these two poems show similar ideas can branch off into many different ideas and interpretations. The desire to continue to live life exists and when the possibility is shown to end that questioning is brought forth just as the two poets have shown to us in their works.
Courtney from Study Moose
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