After reading the following two poems: “When I Have Fears” by John Keats, and “Mezzo Cammin” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. These two poems have similarities, but both have many differences that the authors use to make each poem unique by unraveling the emotions and beliefs of each writer regarding a sensitive subject known as death. In Keats’ poem, “When I Have Fears” he expressses his fear of not accomplishing everything in life before death consumes him. First, he fears that he is going to die before he becomes a great poet.
In addition, he has an idea that he wants all the thoughts that are in his head to be written down in poetry. Furthermore, he wishes to produce a plethora of volumes of completed works. A poetic technique Keats uses was figurative language in a metaphor, he describes his work as grain piled up and stored in a grain storehouse. Keats explains that his poetry comes from deep within him. Next, Keats still has a continuous fear of dying before he becomes a great poet.
He states, that when he looks at all the stars at night his eyes see a universe full of endless ideas that inspire him to write all different kinds of poetry. Moreover, Keats explains that the inspiration for all of his writings come from outside of his own being. He uses metaphor in the following lines, he says his poetic ideas are like stars and constellations – huge cloudy symbols of high romance. He is fearful that he will not have enough time in his life to copy their beauty as poetry. Also, Keats changes the topic to love and his fear that he will not experience it to its full capacity. Keats uses personification as a poetic technique when he refers to love as a “fair creature of an hour,” meaning, it is beautiful but very shortly lived. He explains, love has “faery power,” in other words, magic power, because it is unexpected, you can see beyond yourself when you are truly in love with another person. Keats is fearful that if he dies young, he will not experience love.
In the last two lines of the poem, a shift occurs. Keats distances himself from his feelings of fame, love, and on the bridge of death. Keats indicates, in death all of these things are unimportant.
In Longfellow’s poem, “Mezzo Cammin” he is reflecting on his past, and is thinking into his future which ultimately results to death. In the first eight lines, Longfellow explains that he is a middle aged man and he has not fulfilled his dreams to become a great poet, similar to Keats’ previous poem. Longfellow uses similes as a poetic technique when he discusses his lifelong aspiration to become a great poet, like building a tower of song with large walls.
He explains that what held him back from his accomplishment was not anything blameful such as, his laziness or passion, but a sorrow that almost caused his death because he cared for whatever consumed his with sadness. At the end of line eight there is a shift in his tone, when he becomes optimistic and states that he might still accomplished his goals. He uses similes in the rest of the poem when he compares his life to a hill, that he is halfway up. He looks down the hill and his view is the city, it is dim because it is far away, but it is also large and full of sound, implying that maybe his past was not as void as was interpreted. He hears a roaring noise in the distance coming from the top of the hill. The noise is a waterfall that is a metaphor for death.
As a season, he is currently in the autumn of his life, but not the winter yet, which is death. Both poems are similar in the fact that both use the form of a sonnet. Also, they are very similar in their writing styles because both were written in the first half of the 19th century, and are written in first person.
The two poems also use metaphors and similes to describe specific things such as,accomplishments, love, and time. The biggest similarity between the two, is the subject matter of death. Both writers explore their emotions by discussing their fears, both fear that they will not have enough time to accomplish their life aspiration of becoming great poets and how death is inevitable.
The poems are also significantly different. The first difference is their tone, although both poems are basically sad, in Keats’ poem, the writer is fearful of death and is a tone of welcoming death. In Longfellow’s poem, at first there is a tone of regret that he hasn’t accomplished all his goals, but this shifts to a feeling of optimism because the writer feels that he still has some time left.
In Keats’ poem, there is no indication of age, but the feeling of the poem is that death is close and he can’t stop it. In Longfellow’s poem, it is very clear that he is middle aged and still has half of his life to live. There is a sense in Longfellow’s poem that he can still accomplish his goals if he changes his attitude and lets go of all his sadness.