Friday, February 8, 2008


When I Have Fears

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-piléd books, in charact'ry,
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.

John Keats 1818

In fact, John Keats did not have time to glean his teeming brain. He died in 1821, at the age of 25, which only adds to the wistfulness of this poem.

I have sometimes felt the pressure to describe all that roils around in my head, and feared I did not have the time to say it all. Life, whether it is lived for 25 years or 85, sometimes seems too short to see everything, learn everything, feel everything I wish to see, to learn, to feel. And I, too, sometimes crave Fame, or at least to know that what I have to say has been heard. To be heard, and understood, to know that the words and thoughts I cast out upon the world do not fall upon unhearing ears; I do crave that.

But then come other times. Other times when I seem to be standing alone upon the shore, and all seems so insignificant. What does it matter what thoughts I have had, what words I have written? All is fleeting, in the end. Every word and thought will surely be erased as though I had written them in the sand, and watched the waves smooth them away. In the end, come sooner or later, I will be forgotten. The joys and sorrows that are felt so keenly to me today will be gradually wiped out, filled in by the inexorable tide. The impression I leave behind will slowly fade, until it is as though I have never been, and no one will remain to think of me.

I am not sure if these thoughts are comforting, or terrifying. I suppose they are a bit of both.


Wade said...

i read this last night, anglo.

i would like to think that long after the pebble has sunk to the bottom of the pond, the ripples it created will continue outward, influencing others who will influence others.

i find some comfort in that.

lizardrinking said...

Depends upon whether life finishes or continues. I think the blade of grass that grows from my body does not do so without such nourishment. Likewise if my ashes contributed to a life cycle in some way. People say I have missed the point when I say this, but I don't think I have.
Lovely concise thoughtful writing, as always.