When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

- John Keats

Note that these are just my thoughts on the poem and should not impinge on your own interpretation or enjoyment of it. Or get me downvoted ;p

A Shakespearean sonnet by John Keats, written in January 1818, When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be deals with three of Keat's primal, constant concerns: love, death, and poetry. The fear of untimely death expressed in the euphemismistic title conveys to us the absolute finality of death, though in a tranquil tone. Given Keat's romantic, adolescent perspective on the subject of love, such a fatalistic outlook on the poetic process is surprising: one would presume that Keats considers himself outside the "mortal coil" and, in a way, he does: seeking poesy as a method of transcending the limits imposed on us by mortality. However, although Keats may not accept his fate, his numerous personal experiences of death forced him to acknowledge its existence. Keat's fear is not of death as such, but rather of not fulfilling his poetic destiny, not employing his "teeming brain" to provide transcendental experiences through his poetic descriptions of the beauty of nature, "the night's starr'd face", or of women, that "fair creature of an hour".

This beauty is a rare and transient visitor, like an apparition granted to the poet, but outsde of his control. The poetic process too is outside of the poet's control, a mysterious process, a fortuitous gift, "the magic hand of chance". Death, for Keats, would leave his poetry in parenthesis.

The love featured in this poem is a love free from carnality and lust, outsider love rather than the baser, requited variety. We meet an idealisation of female beauty, an ephemeral, yet eternal, faerie creature. I am reminded of Gatsby's pining for Daisy as he stares across the bay into the blue lights of East Egg. It is a love tinged with the colour of melancholy, for, as for his "fair creature of an hour" he shalt never "look upon thee more". The very notion that Keats is enamoured with a faery creature - something liminal and perfect, further emphasises the transient nature of love. Keats, despite his well documented affections for Fanny Brawne, is to me more in love with the concept of love than with anything tangible.

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