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John Keats

When I have fears

More challenging questions!

Lorraine Knickelbein
Grens High School
Updated: 18 January 2014
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Keats, whose mother and brother had died of TB, was also diagnosed with the disease.

In this sonnet, which is a presentiment of his early death, the poet reflects sadly on all the joys and opportunities of life he will miss out on -- like writing and romance. However, in the couplet he accepts this loss.


John Keats was born in London in 1795, the son of a hostler. Both his parents died while he was still young -- his mother of tuberculosis. He was thereafter brought up by his grandmother who quickly made him an apprentice physician.

He was still only in his late teens when he discovered that he too had caught TB and his younger brother, who was in his care, soon died of it. In order to escape the disease, Keats moved to the sunnier and drier climate of Italy.

There was no escape for him, however, and the poet died in 1821. He was then just 25 years of age. He nevertheless bequeathed us a gargantuan amount of poetry written with an amazing maturity for one so young.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"Before high-piléd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain."
  • What is the function of the emphasis in "piléd"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Consider the implications of the grain being described as "full ripen'd"? (5)

[Need help?]

"Huge cloudy symbols of high romance."
  • Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) and explain the significance of this line. (3)

[Need help?]

"And when I feel, fair creature of an hour."
  • Identify and account for the use of the figure of speech contained in this line. (4)

[Need help?]

"Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love."
  • The word "relish" is particularly evocative. Discuss the effect of the word in the sonnet. (4)

[Need help?]

"Then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone."
  • Identify and comment on the two figures of speech in these lines. (4)

[Need help?]

"Till love and fame to nothingness do sink."
  • Explain what point Keats is making in this line. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Explain the significance of the word "sink" in the context of the sonnet. (4)

[Need help?]

How would you describe the tone of the poem? Is it one of self-pity? Is it resignation and acceptance? (4)

[Need help?]

Identify the type of sonnet and explain how Keats has utilised the structure. (8)

[Need help?]

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