AP Poetry: Side-By-Side

the exhaustion is too real, but here we go…

The Prompt:

In the two poems below, Keats and Longfellow reflect on similar concerns. Read the poems carefully. Then write an essay in which you compare and contrast the two poems, analyzing the poetic techniques each writer uses to explore his particular situation.

Poem 1:

“When I Have Fears”

-John Keats (1818)

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.

Poem 2:

“Mezzo Cammin*”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1842)

Written at Boppard on the Rhine August 25, 1842,
Just Before Leaving for Home

Half of my life is gone, and I have let

The years slip from me and have not fulfilled

The aspiration of my youth, to build

Some tower of song with lofty parapet.

Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret

Of restless passions that would not be stilled,

But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,

Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;

Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past

Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—

A city in the twilight dim and vast,

With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—

And hear above me on the autumnal blast

The cataract** of Death far thundering from the heights.

*from the first line of Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” (“Midway upon the journey of our life”).

**A large waterfall

 

ANSWER TO THE BIG QUESTION: what is being compared and contrasted in these two poems? what are the situations?

Both writers reflect on the past up to this point of their lives and what the future holds for them: death.

Keats: focuses on what he has missed

Longfellow: focuses on regrets

-SMALL: what devices were used to accomplish this?

Figurative Language, Imagery, Tone

THESIS: Both authors, Keats and Longfellow, indirectly address the inevitability of death through relating their fears– Keats admits to fearing what he has missed in life when he ends up alone while Longfellow shares his fear through possible regrets in life.

Metaphors help the reader delve into the deeper feelings of the authors.

Poem 1: “Hold like rich garners”

Poem 2: “And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.”

Poem 2: “a city in the twilight”

Imagery highlights the past of the authors and what contributes to their current fears.

Poem 1: “Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance”

Poem 2: “Before high-piled books”

Poem 2: “A city in the twilight dim and vast, With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights”

Tone conveys the fear and uncertainty in both poems at the prospect of death.

Poem 1: “When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face”

Poem 2: “The cataracts of Death far thundering from the heights”

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