Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold by William Shakespeare

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 see’st 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,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

In the first stanza, the lyrical voice constructs a metaphor in order to characterize the nature of old age. Throughout these first lines, the lyrical voice relates old age to a particular “time of the year”. First, old age is portrayed as autumn, where “yellow leaves or none or few, do hang”. The lyrical voice suggests that aging is similar to the moment of the year when the leaves have almost completely fallen, the weather is cold, and the birds left their branches. This metaphor emphasizes the harshness and emptiness of old age. This can be read, especially, when the lyrical voice says that “boughs shake against the cold” and “Bare ruin’d choirs”. Sonnet 73 portrays the lyrical voice’s anxieties towards aging, and, in this particular stanza, the lyrical voice seems to be implying that autumn is the particular time of the year when death occurs. Moreover, the lyrical voice compares his aging process to nature, and particularly to autumn.

In the second stanza, the lyrical voice compares the process of aging to the twilight. As the lyrical voice feels troubled about aging, he/she uses another metaphor to describe how he/she feels towards old age. The lyrical voice says that old age is similar to the twilight, as it can be seen in him/her (“In me thou seest the twilight of such day”). Then, a particular scenario is described, where the sun fades (“As after sunset fadeth in the west”) and night approaches (“Which by and by black night doth take away”). This metaphor emphasizes the gradual fading of youth, as the twilight shifts to night “by and by”. Notice that, in the final line death is directly related to this particular time of the day (“Death’s second self”) and it is described as the one that brings eternal rest (“seals up all in the rest”). As in the first stanza, these lines portray aging as the end of a cycle. In the previous stanza, this cycle is represented by the different natural seasons, and in this stanza the cycle is represented by the moments of the day.

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