Featured Poem: ‘Sonnet 73’, William Shakespeare

We haven’t had any Shakespeare for a while. Time to put that right, I think, with a sonnet in which an aging speaker uses a number of metaphors to describe his advanced, and ever advancing, years. Those metaphors are simple enough (the autumn-winter of the year, the twilight of the day, the dying embers of a fire) and yet his ways of wording them are particularly haunting. More than any of the other sonnets, I find its words and rhythms occurring to me, again and again, like strange music: “When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang”… “Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by”…

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare

3 thoughts on “Featured Poem: ‘Sonnet 73’, William Shakespeare”

  1. Beautiful, Mark. Do you see, as I do, a resonance of it in Hardy’s ‘I Look Into My Glass’? You know the ‘throbbings of noontide’?

  2. Yes, it’s the same idea. Though Hardy’s is much sadder, isn’t it? At least here there IS a “thou”, a friend or lover whose love is made “more strong” by the perception of time running out. Hardy is alone with his reflection, and his reflections. Great poems both.

  3. Yes, I agree, TH is much sadder: I have heard he had toothache the day he was inspired to write it – gives a whole new meaning to ‘throbbing’!

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