Sherwin Tehran i-Rad English 102 Living to Die " Love is the emblem of eternity: it confounds all notion of time: effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end." ~ Germaine De Stael In William Shakespeare's Sonnet #73 [That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold], the main theme of an approaching and inevitable death is applied. Moreover, this theme is being explained to a loved one in order for her to embrace and cherish her love for him while he still breathes. Beginning with the first quatrain, Shakespeare compares his age to that of autumn which stands for his advancement of years. Furthermore, in the second quatrain, Shakespeare elaborately compares his aging to a sunset, which is right before night, or in Shakespeare's case, death. In the final quatrain Shakespeare further compares his life to the life of a fire, which burns bright at the beginning but eventually dies out and turns to ashes. The point of the final couplet is to have the reader realize that the entire sonnet is written to his lover; in order to symbolize the way that Shakespeare feels that she views him in natural terms.
Furthermore it shows the undying nature of love present between them, which cannot die along with his death. In the first quatrain, Shakespeare metaphorically compares himself to a tree in the season of fall. The season of fall is symbolic because it represents a transition in time, right after spring and summer when life is full of energy, and right before winter when everything is dead and ceased to be. He goes on to say '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' (579). Shakespeare uses conceit to elaborately compare his furtherance of age to the aging tree in the fall.
Just as the tree is helpless and naked to the elements, Shakespeare is naked and helpless in the hands of time. Furthermore, Shakespeare portrays the fact that his death is inevitable. In the second quatrain, Shakespeare seems to say death comes like night, dark and quiet, like a thief, stealing when we sleep. Moreover, the speaker compares his age to the late twilight, 'As after sunset fadeth in the west,' and the remaining light is slowly extinguished into the darkness.
Meaning, death will come, without question. The sun setting could also be regarded as the sun going to sleep, which plays on the last line of the quatrain, 'Death's second self, which seals upon rest.' This line talks of the eternal sleep, or death. This quatrain suggests a night without the possibility of day, 'seals upon rest.' Here sunset represents dying. The next metaphor compares night, which occurs after sunset, to death. Which by and by black night doth take away/ Death's second self that seals up all in rest (07-08).
It is important to note that the author has changed his focus from aging, to dying, to death, and narrowed his scope to the close of one day (05). In the third quatrain, He seems to compare his life to fire, burning bright in youth, when energy and ideas bound forth, but eventually it all turns to ashes, fragments of the passing youth, essentially death. He also makes implications of lying upon the ashes, his deathbed, of days gone by, days when he was young and full of energy. The fire proposes finality, the non-cyclical process that night and the seasons are part of, which Shakespeare has worked towards in the poem. Furthermore, the author speaks of a deathbed of ashes (10-11). These ashes can be interpreted as the ashes of his youth.
Those ashes had once been the fuel of the man's youth, that which provided his youthful energy. But now, they are now the place where the dying fire of his youth and strength dwindles to nothingness. The final couplet says the thought of death makes love more intense. This refers to as idea in the third quatrain, 'Consumed with that which it was nourished by.' Death consumes the emotions, like a blazing fire, turning all to ashes, after the fuel runs out. It is the final couplet of Sonnet 73 that first mentions love.
The entire poem is written to someone, probably a lover or a loved one. The last two lines, however, seem to appear to sum up the relationship: This thou perceive " st, which makes thy love more strong// To love that well, which thou must leave ere long (13-14). Here the author is saying that even though he is so close to death, the lover still loves him. The author's advanced stage on life actually makes the love more strong (13), even though the lover knows that the author will not be around much longer.
Although the author spends much of the sonnet speaking of aging, dying, and death, there is still an element of love. The poem addresses a lover of the author through figurative language and metaphors. The organization of the poem makes a steady progression from images of aging, to dying, to death, and ultimately to love. In conclusion, Shakespeare's Sonnet acts as a whole to personify aging and death in the eyes of his lover and to give her more reason to love him now, as he is still alive. Shakespeare applies the transitional season of fall, the approaching night, and the dying of a flame as metaphors for his old age and unavoidable death.
Shakespeare describes death in the most natural way possible, in a long, drawn out petrarchan conceit. First Shakespeare reveals signs of sickness and withering which come before death with the season of fall. Secondly, he further provides a succession towards death by revealing that there is no turning back towards the daytime (a symbol for life) as "the sunset fades" (579). Subsequently, his death approaches as his youth has withered, yet the love that his beloved shared with him is still present, never lost.