When I Have Fears : The Liberty Of Limitations

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Drew Lieske
Dr. Lindley
08 November 2015
“When I Have Fears:” The Liberty of Limitations In the early nineteenth century, John Keats and other lyricists entered an era of passionate speculation on the condition of man, art and nature. It is thus no surprise that Keats’ 1818 poem, “When I Have Fears,” is packed with fervent, emotional content. Like many of his poems, “When I Have Fears” has been understood to be about Keats’ justifiable doubts about mortality, having been born into a family beleaguered by terminal illness. This particular Shakespearean sonnet, however, stands out from the rest because it sketches a more nuanced depiction of death. Though death is indeed the root of his anxieties, this poem reveals that the speaker is ironically also able to achieve a kind of perspective on the world through the very nature of his own mortality. An acceptance and understanding of death’s perceived limitations seem to grant Keats an unconscious freedom that allows him to transcend, or overcome, his future uncertainties. Keats demonstrates this freedom in “When I Have Fears” by incorporating elegant paradoxes, imagery and naturalistic metaphors that accentuate the comfort and control that accepting fate can paradoxically provide during times of pain and death. The author presents a metaphorical image of an autumn harvest in the first quatrain that reveals the speaker’s ability to find freedom in accepting his own limitations. In the proceeding quotation, Keats

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