Sonnet 73: That time of year thou may’st in me behold

With the arrival of spring, it is difficult not to notice the beautiful, yet fleeting nature of the newly sprung surroundings. So, we turn to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, which looks at the characteristic changes in nature as a means of reflecting on the bittersweet quality of mortality.

As you read through this sonnet, we ask you to consider why Shakespeare chose to describe the changes inherent in life with such imagery. What do you think the changes are that the speaker is describing? Do you think the metaphors chosen indicate that these changes are negative or positive? Finally, who do you think the person is that the speaker is addressing? Do you think it is the speaker themselves, or someone else?

That time of year thou may’st 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 perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Discussion

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