The poems, "When I have fears that I may cease to be," and "Why did I laugh to-night," written by John Keats, relate to death and have similarities and differences in some respects. In "When I have fears that I may cease to be," the poet focuses on desolate fears that he will miss enjoyment of life. However, the poet's acceptance of the inevitability of the death frees his fears. On the other hand, in "Why did I laugh to-night," the poet has internal conflict of refusing mortality, but his acceptance of impending death overcomes his confusion and anguish. Therefore, he accepts death gracefully. Both poems face impending death. The ways of accepting death differ in both poems. In the first poem, Keats fears death; however, he accepts death as it is, and this releases his fears from death. In the second poem, he has confliction toward accepting death, but in the end, he takes death positively after realizing that death exceeds all the pleasures of life. Keats shows the similarities and differences in the structure of the poem, the tone of voice, the choices of the words and phrases, and scenery of the poems.
The structure of "When I have fears that I may cease to be," is a traditional Shakespearean sonnet form. The rhyme is ABABCDCDEFEFGG. The sonnet consists of three quatrains. In the first quatrain, Keats writes "When I have fears that I may cease to be," (1) to show that he has fears that he is going to die. In the second quatrain, he writes "When I behold," (5) and "think that I may never live to trace," (7). He states that he has fears that he won't be able to explore the world. Sidney Colvin notes in the book John Keats: His Life and Poetry "in the light of the tragedy to come its two first quatrains now seem to thrill with prophetic meaning" (259). In the third quatrain, he writes "when I feel, fair creature of an hour," (9) and "I shall never look upon thee more," (10). He says that he has fears that he can not experience love anymore.