Time, Life, and God in John Milton's Poetry
John Milton's poems, "How Soon Hath Time" and "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent" both focus on life and how the time we are given is or should be spent. Milton uses the word "How" in both the titles and I cant help but wonder "Is there something to examine there?" How by itself is a question of is it possible, and if so then what needs to be done to make it possible. It, in this case is time: Is time possible or better yet, is it possible to stop time? If so then how will it be accomplished? What needs to happen to cause time to stop? Milton uses the speaker in this poem to explain a way of looking at time and how quickly time really does fly by. In these two poems the speakers refer to God as the, "Taskmaster", "Maker", and "Patience." The importance of God in the speakers' life is reflected in these two poems. The way both these poems are written it seems as if the speaker is the same person and also as if these poems were written to be read in an order as if, "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent", is a continuance of the poem, "How Soon Hath Time." Because of the similarities of these two poems it seems as if the speaker for each of these poems was Milton himself. In the two poems Milton explains that time is short and for him (the speaker), he wants to live by the will of God. The speaker explains how he believes God wants him to live and even though he doesn't like time going by so quickly he has accepted it and he respects what God wants for his life. Milton uses personification and references to God in both poems to not only set a mood, but also to show the reader a perspective of how one man, looks at the time that has passed him by and how he believes he should live his life.
Milton's "How Soon Hath Time", is a focus on the quickness of our life. In lines one and twelve Milton uses personification by capitalizing the word time to gives the reader a picture of time as a person instead of just a period or living being. The dictionary refers to time as, "A nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future."(Dictionary). "Apparently irreversible", this statement is interesting because using the word apparently still leaves some room for question. Word does that mean? Does that mean we can change time or the events that have occurred in that time? Milton doesn't seem to think that is possible. Because Milton further emphasizes his point when in the first line he personifies time but this time referring to time as the "thief of youth," which reflects somewhat of a bitter tone because time has passed so quickly. This personification the "thief if youth" also parallels and agrees with the dictionary definition of time, the fact that time is irreversible. It appears to the reader that the speaker is very bitter about time passing so quickly and perhaps he feels as if his time has been stolen from him.