John Keats’ “When I Have Fears” poems and “Bright Star” poems are very similar but vastly different. Shakespearean sonnets are similar in rhyme scheme and subject matter. However, they cover different aspects the same topic. Both men describe love in a way that is so important that it is impossible to live without. But neither one of these conclusions is reached until the last line.
Each poem can be broken down to reveal its emotion. Parallel construction is used well in “When My Fears”. The first 12 words are divided into three sections. Each section contains the word “when”, an action, and the word “when”. Keats uses this construction only in the final couplet. The speaker is able to explore his emotions first and then see the results. Another way to break down “When I Have Fears” is also possible. You can separate it into an opus and a stave, rather than just three quattrains and a couplet. Keats is focused on his musings for the first eight line, while he delivers an address during the last sestet. (9) Keats may be adhering to a Shakespearean structure. However, he is unable to control his emotions and falls to a Petrarchan form. “Bright Star,” too, is composed in an octave and a sestet. Its volta gives both the speaker as well as the reader a different perspective. Keats’s poem is filled with musings, up to line 9, when the topic turns to love.
Although both poems are about love, neither mentions this until the end. “When I Have Fears” is about the speaker’s fear that he will die before he can capture the true nature and beauty of romance on paper or create art. In lines 9-14, we learn that he is afraid of losing his lover; he “shall always look upon you more” (10). He is alone. “Love and Fame do not sink.” (14). The poem’s focus changes at the volta to the speaker and his lover. It describes her impact on him. This is because the poet’s poetic goals are subordinated to love, but that it is central to his ability reach them.
The volta of “Bright Star” is similar. The poem’s focus shifts from Keats appreciation of nature to his love for his “fair-love” (10). While “When I Have Fears”, waits for line 10, to reveal who the poet is speaking to, “Bright Star”, alerts you to the subject right from the beginning. The speaker addresses the star and focuses on its wonderful qualities until the last sestet. At that point, the speaker shifts the focus and describes the similarities between him and the star.
Keats’ use of punctuation and deliberate words help to reveal hidden emotions. “When I Have Fears,” is about a loved ones who are not there. But the repetitions of “I”, reveal that the poem is really about an author and his reaction in the face of loss. The speaker’s anger and sadness can be seen in the many breaks and pauses throughout the poem. There are ten total commas. These commas are used mostly to separate thoughts and not to complete them. Seven times the word “I”, seven times in fourteen lines. Keats shows how the speaker’s mind is full of chaotic thoughts by using repetitions and uncoordinated word placements.
“Bright Star” uses 11 commas but in a much more informal way. The commas should be placed at either the end or beginning of lines to avoid indicating a break. Each dash is carefully placed. The poem’s meter is not affected by the first dash in line 1. The three remaining dashes in line one show the speaker’s strong reaction on his own thoughts. These dashes show that he isn’t as “steadfast” (9), but he still has the same qualities regarding love. The poem’s final dash is actually the first five words. It prepares you for the speaker’s claim that love would make him die.
The only thing that is different between the two poems is their tone. “When I Have Fears” reflects on death and loss of love. The tone of “Bright Star” is lighter and touches on subjects like purity, innocence, and unending love. However, the endings of both poems share a common theme. The endings of both poems are dominated by couplets that express the speakers’ inability not to be surrounded by their loved ones. “When I Have Fears”, together with “Bright Star”, create a poetic circle. The latter starts where the former ends. “When I Have Fears,” is a poem in which the speaker frets about his ability and lack of love to convey true romance. These fears are only quelled by the poet’s end. He is left completely alone. All he thought about vanishes at the end of the poem, but he will be re-engaged in “Bright Star”. The speaker describes a star which he longs to be like. But this star is “not alone splendor” (2), just as the speaker in “When I Have Fears”. The speaker is once more faced with death without love at the end, as the “Bright Star” arc ends.