When I have fears that I may cease to be’ written by John Keats, is an Elizabeth sonnet written in the first person. The sonnet charts the desires and despairs of the speaker as he begins to realize his imminent death. The speaker regrets his inability to achieve fame and his incapability to live his life to the fullest with his love.
The first quatrain is the speaker’s expression of his regret. Although he has a ‘teeming brain’ filled with beautiful imagery and ideas, he fears that he will ‘cease to be’ before he can express them.
The speaker believes that his imagination could fill ‘high-pilled books, in character,’ he feels as though the things he sees and the ideas he has could fill large numbers of books that quickly become popular.
The diction used enhances the imagery of harvest this is achieved through using words such as, ‘garners’, ‘grains’, and ‘gleaned’, that are associated with farming. The imagery of the harvest acts as a metaphor, the speaker is the harvester and his imagination is the field of grain.
One of the speaker’s biggest fears is the failure to ‘glean’ his land.
In the second quatrain the speakers regret is continued through the usage of personification and imagery. The speaker is awed by the nights ‘starred face, ‘he draws his inspiration from nature to craft his poetry, its his ‘magic hand’ that ‘traces’ the ‘shadows’ of the clouds. Through this ability the speaker believes he gives nature meaning by emphasizing its beauty.