John Keats' literary reputation
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When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high pilèd books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain ;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd 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.
The first full-length biography of Keats, Richard Monckton Milnes's
Life, Letters and Literary Remains of John Keats, appeared
in 1848. After years of controversy, during which Keats' work had
been alternately savagely criticised and extravagantly praised,
and then shamefully neglected, it confirmed his position among the
greatest English poets. One of the poems which now appeared in print
for the first time was the intensely romantic sonnet `When I have
fears that I may cease to be'.
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