Thursday, October 7, 2010

"That time of year" by William Shakespeare

In Shakespeare's sonnet "That time of year", the speaker uses a series of metaphors to characterize the nature of what he perceives to be his old age. During the first quatrain he compares his age to autumn, referencing the yellowing leaves and barren tree limbs. Through this comparison, "upon those boughs which shake against the cold", he emphasized the harshness and coldness of old age. In the next quatrain, he made the comparison of his age to twilight; when light slowly fades to darkness it symbolizes his ever approaching death. The focus here was on a gradual fading of light from youth to a growing darkness of aging. In nature, the seasons and time of day are processes which move in cycles. In human life; however, the fading of warmth and light are not cyclical, and will not come back again. Once they are gone they are gone forever. This idea is reflected in the third quatrain. The speaker compares himself to the glowing remnants of a fire and says that on the ashes of the logs that enabled it to burn he will soon be extinguished and sink into those ashes. The connection made between the dying fire and the speaker's death is not a cyclical one. Instead, it shows that life ending is a final and irreversible event. That being said, the speaker leaves the reader with a final piece of advice. He tells the reader that they must perceive these things and allow their love to grow stronger for those they care about. He says they should do this through the knowledge that they will soon be parted from those they love when their life is extinguished by time.

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