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When I have fears that I may cease to be

When I have fears that I may cease to be


by John Keats

Figurative Language

Symbol Analysis

If there's one thing we know about John Keats, it's that he's fond of a good metaphor. Practically every line in his poem offers up a new form of figurative language. This dense web of metaphors and similes does a pretty good job of turning the world into a playground for the imagination – and vice versa. If everything can be described as something else, it's pretty hard to tell what's real. Heck, we're getting a headache already.

  • Lines 1, 2, 3, 5, 11, 14: Keats uses temporal indicators as the first word of each of these lines, creating a feeling of expectation through the use of repetition.
  • Line 4: This simile compares language to wheat in a grain bin (remember, similes use "like" or "as" in their comparison of two things).
  • Line 5: Personifying the night by turning its stars into a "face" allows the speaker to interact with it as he would a real person.
  • Lines 6-7: Tracing the face of love with the hand of chance? That's some mighty flowery imagery, folks. It's so flowery, as a matter of fact, that it becomes rather hard to imagine. Personifying chance by giving it a hand doesn't make it any easier to picture.

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