When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garner the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night 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 fairy 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
This poem by John Keats wrenched my heart. After reading the tragic account of Keats’ short life, reading this sonnet on Keats’ reluctance to leave this world saddened me. He died at the age of 24, after a short yet brilliant life, and many have wondered what may have happened if he had lived longer. It seems that Keats himself had some of these same thoughts as well.
The opening lines of the poem gripped me as I saw my own struggles mirrored in them. I don’t face an imminent death as Keats did, but growing up in Christendom one is constantly reminded of their brevity. For years I struggled with this, fighting against acceptance, pleading with God to not take me or come back before my plans for my life were completed. I had things to do and to write and to read, I had people I was reluctant to leave, and I had my own plans that I felt were for my ultimate best. I refused to place my life securely into the hands of the One who created it.
But I found that in this rebellion there is no peace. I began to realize that He who formed me had the right to do as He pleased with my life, and the right to end it whenever He saw fit, no matter if all my plans and goals had been achieved or not. And as I released my life into my Maker’s hands, He showed me peace that I had never known. I saw that all of the things which I so loved about this world were merely cloudy, imperfect reflections of the greater things He has for me in eternity–namely Himself. With Keats, "on the shore / Of the wide world I stand alone, and think / Till love and fame to nothingness do sink," standing here, looking into the vast ocean of eternity, all the things I once held dear sink unregarded into the depths...I am caught up in the wonder of my God.