When I have Fears That I May
Cease to Be
by John Keats
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred 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.
I write to you this letter, because I fear we will not see each other again. I fear that my time will come soon and therefore I want you to know my final thoughts.
I am afraid I will die before I have harvested my full ripened grain. I feel that I am not fully developed as a poet yet. I reckon that in ten years’ time I will be much more mature and that only then I will be able to write to the best of my ability. In other words: I am afraid to die before I have written to the best of my ability.
When it is late and I can’t sleep, I look at the radiant stars and my eyes are then filled with tears, such beauty will never disappear, but I, I am transient and will one day disappear forever. Nature is full of surprises, full of miracles, things I want to transform into poetry, when I still have the chance.
There is of course the fear of losing you, my dearest Girl. We fell in love and got engaged, although we both know we will not see each other again. Love is just like you and me mortal and will not last.
And finally I am alone trying to understand these fears and to cope with them. But let me be honest, my dear Fanny, I am not managing so well. It may take a while before I die, but I will always be anxious and worried till the day I leave this earth forever.