Mortality, of all the facets of humanity, mortality, the imminence of death is arguably what most defines us. Death is merely the stage where life is distinguished, yet many fear, fight against their in-elusive fate in the unwavering desire to yet achieve their dying ambitions, final aspirations in life. John Keats When I Have Fears and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Mezzo Cammin both chronicle the restless fears, looming concerns of the two poets forthcoming mortality. Similar in thematic ties, the works share the prominent use of metaphorical imagery to connote their ideas but contrast in their respective structure as the authors explore their varied but so to familiar perspectives on the subject of death, mortality, in comparison.
"Half of my life is gone..." Wadsworth opens his composition similarly to Keats "when I have fears that I may cease to be..." The two poets reflecting not simply on their inevitable death but their lives thus far. Both works explore these reflections, their authors concerns via the device of imagery. "Then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone and think till love and fame do sink to nothingness." Keats imagery of reflecting on a beachhead shore at worlds edge, essentially commenting on how temporal "love and fame" really are as they "sink to nothingness" and become nothing but terminal memories after life is similar to Longfellow's use of imagery as follows.
"Though half way up I see the past, a city in the twilight dim and vast with smoking roofs, soft bells, and hear above me the autumnal blast The cataract of death far thundering from the heights." Longfellow crafts the image of a "twilight city" the diction of "twilight" and "dim" connoting Longfellow's own petering life in twilight years whilst the "soft bells" marking the "thundering" "autumnal blast" all echoes the coming inevitable end of life, all roads of life ending at "deaths cataract". Indeed both John Keats and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow utilize the poetic device of imagery within their respective works to reflect upon their lives as well as pine to live longer so as to chase their final "youthful aspirations".
Though the two poets explore the same theme of mortality, employing a plethora of similar poetic devices, such as imagery, Keats and Longfellow's pieces, however, contrast in their poetic structure. Both works are constructed with a rhyming scheme but whereas Keats rhymes in odd couplets every other line as illustrated: "When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, And feel that I may never live to trace, Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;". Longfellow, on the other hand, directly rhymes each subsequent following line with the preceding last, ex: " The years slip from me and have not fulfilled, The aspiration of my youth, to build, Some tower of song with lofty parapet. Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret.". Though the poets differ in comparable rhyming structures, the dual use of rhyming in general expertly crafts a hypnotic momentum, pacing that enables the author to fluidly convey their similar perspectives on mortality, both lamenting the loss of time, both rapidly now pursuing youthful aspirations, both reflecting on their lives.
The hands of time deliver us all to the same ends, life is death and death is life. John Keats When I Have Fears and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Mezzo Cammin in contrast/comparison both convey the authors varied but all to similar dispositions on their imminent, perpetual, mortality. Via the use of poetic devices painting connotative metaphorical imagery as well as differing but dually hypnotic rhyming structures, both Keats and Longfellow reflect upon their forthcoming deaths as they live out their middle-aged twilight years. Though they may differ in exact utilization of poetic devices, they both use them to reflect upon their existence, both desire to pursue and accomplish their ultimate "youthful aspirations", both confront their inevitable mortality, but both so to never forgo hope, forget whats important in life: to live.