the exhaustion is too real, but here we go…
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.
“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.
-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”