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Keat’s & Longfellow Analysis

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Jasmine Carter Mr. Gillet A. P. Literature September 20, 2012 Keats and Longfellow Both Keats and Longfellow were poets during the Romantic period. The two compose poems in which they reflect on their inability to live up to their creative potential and the idea that death could intervene at any moment. Longfellow is disappointed in his failures and sees comfort in the past rather than an uncertain future. Moreover, Keats fears he won’t accomplish all that he wants, but sees possibility and realizes his grievous goals won’t be important after death.

While Longfellow’s tone is fearful, Keats’ is appreciative and hopeful about what life has to offer right now. In both poems, the poets use the literary devices parallelism and symbolism, to depict their particular situation in their own lives, while also using diction with characteristics of romantic poetry, reflecting their time period. The two poets of “When I Have Fears” and “Mezzo Cammin” tell their fear of not attaining what they want in life through the use of parallelism. Keats uses parallelism by starting his first quatrain, as well as the other two, with the word “when”, conveying that time is moving forward in his life.

The use of this word also delivers the idea Keats’s youthfulness during the time he wrote this poem, and illustrates his fear of not showing others his writing potential before he is “[ceased to be]”. Longfellow uses parallelism in line 9, telling readers he’s “halfway up the hill” and that he only “[sees] the past”. The use of this parallelism depicts his older age and his views on the little time he has left to accomplish something major. Both Keats and Longfellow bring forth their ages to get their readers to realize there is not much time left in life, and they must make a choice to do something worthwhile before it is too late.

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The second sections of the two poems draw attention to the differences in each situation. The two poets use symbolism of something dark; Keats using the symbol of “the night’s starred face”, while Longfellow uses the symbol of “a city in the twilight dim and vast”. Both symbols are used to convey that darkness is equivalent to future’s mysteries. The difference in this is that Keats has a positive outlook on the mysteries his future holds, whereas Longfellow finds comfort in his past and fear in his uncertain future.

Longfellow’s fears have stopped him from accomplishing greatness all together, in something such as “[building] some tower of song”. On the other hand, Keats has taken full advantage of the time he’s had and is only slightly frightened that he does not have time to achieve his greatness. Poets in the romantic period felt strongly that literature and nature had the effect to move people. Keats and Longfellow utilize diction characteristics of their romantic style of poetry. In the couplet of “Mezzo Cammin”, Longfellow declares he “[hears an autumnal blast above him]”, referring to the way nature makes him feel.

In this case, nature moves him in a negative way; conveying his old age, sickness and, most commonly, the death in which he believes is only getting closer. Although it is not used in Keats’ couplet, he uses the word “behold” to depict that he sees greatness in his writing and how it would move him, in a positive way, if he accomplished his goal of being a famous poet. In the couplet of “When I Have Fears”, we see that Keats believe without beholding greatness, he will be moved in a negative way, (i. e. “nothingness”).

In both poems “When I Have Fears” and “Mezzo Cammin”, the poets use the poetic devises parallelism, symbolism and diction with hints of romantic style, to reveal the theme that death only comes closer, but what you do in the time you have left is strictly your choice. The two sonnets, written during the Romantic period, bring forth that outlooks on life can be both negative and positive. They convey the idea that no matter what age you are, there is always some feeling of the fear of death in all of us.

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