March 2, 2010
Comp and Lit II
Explication of Sonnet 73
William Shakespeare is perhaps the most well known poet of all time. Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford. Before his death at the age of 52, Shakespeare had written a great number of comedies, tragedies, plays and sonnets. Shakespeare's 73rd sonnet consists of 14 lines, 3 quatrains and a couplet in an iambic pentameter form. The first line of the sonnet is sometimes referenced as the title. It reads, "That time of year thou mayst in me behold." The poet paints a picture in each quatrain of the sonnet conveying his anxieties of the impending harshness of old age. He wants the reader to understand the value of life and love. He does this by illustrating that life is limited by time.
In the first section of the sonnet, the poet draws an allusion between an external image and an internal state of mind. The poet anticipates the impending chill and abandonment that comes with old age. The first four lines read, "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." (1-4). The imagery of a harsh autumn day is made more tactile by the use of pauses in the second line. Each pause helps to create the imagery of leaves blowing away, one by one, and feeling the chill of a late autumn wind. The choice of the words, "Bare ruin'd choirs" is a reference to the remains of a church that has been stripped of its roof, exposing it to the elements and left to decay. It seems as if the poet is saying, "See this place, this is how I am feeling; old, cold and abandoned. I am in a state of ruin and I am barely hanging on." The knowledge that joy once existed in this place, as alluded to by the bird's sweet song, sets the emotional tone, one of sympathetic pity.
Fading youth is represented by twilight in the second section of the sonnet. "In me thou see'st the twilight of such a day/ As...