Poems About Fear

Poems About Fear (Overcoming Your Thick Darkness)

As seen by our selection of traditional optimistic poems, hope has frequently been the theme of poetry. However, there are moments when dread rather than optimism seems to dominate the future. What have poets written about dread, future uncertainty, and feeling afraid? Here are our favorite poems about fear.

Poems About Fear

Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun

One of Shakespeare’s most well-known songs, “Fear No More the Heat of the Sun,” was first performed in the late play Cymbeline, which may be why it isn’t as well-known now. The text of “Fear No More the Heat of the Sun” is presented below, followed by some commentary and analysis.

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!

The song is sung over the lifeless bodies of Cloten and Fidele, the latter of whom is actually the heroine Imogen dressed as a boy and is not actually dead; simply drugged. It is taken from one of the “problem plays,” Cymbeline.

However, the words practically state that “the nice thing about being dead is that you no longer need to fear the trials of life” at the moment in the play where they appear, Act IV Scene 2.

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When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be

In his brief life, John Keats produced a number of sonnets, with “When I have dread that I may cease to be” becoming one of the most well-known and often anthologized.

To emphasize the significance of Keats’ imagery in this poem as well as the sonnet’s form and language, certain analytical terms are helpful.

The poem is a Shakespearean sonnet with the rhyme scheme ababcdcdefefgg, which is particularly fitting given that Keats is obsessed with dying too soon and not having the time to do his greatest work and establish himself “among the English poets” in this poem (as Keats himself put it).

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;

When I behold, upon the night’s starred 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.

By John Keats

How Fear Came

The stream is shrunk–the pool is dry,
And we be comrades, thou and I;
With fevered jowl and dusty flank
Each jostling each along the bank;
And, by one drouthy fear made still,
Forgoing thought of quest or kill.

Now ‘neath his dam the fawn may see,
The lean Pack-Wolf as cowed as he,
And the tall buck, unflinching, note
The fangs that tore his father’s throat.

The pools are shrunk–the streams are dry,
And we be playmates, thou and I,
Till yonder cloud–Good Hunting!–Loose
The rain that breaks our Water Truce.

By Rudyard Kipling

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Fear

I am afraid, oh I am so afraid!
The cold black fear is clutching me to-night
As long ago when they would take the light
And leave the little child who would have prayed,
Frozen and sleepless at the thought of death.

My heart that beats too fast will rest too soon;
I shall not know if it be night or noon, —
Yet shall I struggle in the dark for breath?
Will no one fight the Terror for my sake,
The heavy darkness that no dawn will break?

How can they leave me in that dark alone,
Who loved the joy of light and warmth so much,
And thrilled so with the sense of sound and touch, —
How can they shut me underneath a stone?

By Sara Teasdale

Success

I have mislaid the torment and the fear.
You should be praised for taking them away.
Those that doubt drugs, let them doubt which was here.

Well are they doubted for they turn out dear.
I feed on flatness and am last to leave.
Verse likes despair. Blame it on the beer
I have mislaid the torment and the fear.

All losses haunt us. It was a reprieve
Made Dostoevsky talk out queer and clear.

Those stay most haunting that most soon decieve
And turn out no loss of the various Zoo
The public spirits or the private play.
Praised once for having taken these away
What is it else then such a thing can do?

Lose is Find with great marsh light like you.
Those that doubt drugs, let them doubt which was here
When this leaves the green afterlight of day.
Nor they nor I know what we shall believe.
You should be praised for taking them away.

By William Empson

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September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

By W. H. Auden 

Every one of us will experience fear in our life, maybe several times. This poem’s message of self-belief and the value of embracing one’s worries is one of conquering fear and refusing to let it rule your life.

What aspect of these poems about fear do you find full strength in? Can you share this feeling with us in the comment section? Do you think this article will give sane strength to another? SHARE IT!

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