That Time of Year by William Shakespeare – the Summary
Sonnet 73, written by the famous poet William Shakespeare, is a beautiful and thoughtful poem that talks about getting older, the fact that we all have to leave this world someday, and how love can be strong even in the face of these things. Shakespeare uses pictures and comparisons to help us understand these ideas better. Let’s take a closer look at what this poem means.
The Poem & the Summary
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.
Imagery of Autumn:
In the first stanz, the poet talks about a particular time of year. He says, “That time of year thou mayst in me behold.” It’s like he’s telling someone to look at him and see this specific time of year.
He then describes the season of autumn by saying, “When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang upon those boughs.” This means that during autumn, you can see leaves that are yellow, or sometimes there are barely any leaves left on the branches.
The poet uses the image of the trembling branches to show that the leaves are hanging on weakly, ready to fall off. He says, “Which shake against the cold, bare ruin’d choirs.” This gives us a sense of the leaves being frail and about to be blown away by the cold wind.
The final line of the stanza says, “Where late the sweet birds sang.” This means that the branches, which were once filled with the songs of birds, are now empty and silent. It shows us that the season has changed, and the vibrant life of the birds has moved on.
So, in this stanza, the poet uses imagery to paint a picture of autumn and its effect on nature. It also suggests a deeper meaning, relating the fading leaves and the absence of birdsong to the passing of time and the fleeting nature of life.
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.
Twilight and Night:
In the second stanz, the poet continues to describe his condition and compares it to the fading day. He says, “In me thou see’st the twilight of such day.” It’s like he’s saying that the person looking at him sees the end of a day, just like the twilight before nightfall.
The poet explains that his current state is like a fading sunset. He says, “As after sunset fadeth in the west.” This means that just as the sun fades away after sunset, his energy and vitality are also fading as he grows older.
He goes on to say, “Which by and by black night doth take away.” This line suggests that after the sunset, darkness follows. It symbolizes the end of life and the coming of death, which takes away everything.
The poet compares himself to “Death’s second self.” This means that as he grows older, he feels closer to death, as if death is a part of him. It represents the inevitable end that awaits all living beings.
He concludes the stanza by saying, “That seals up all in rest.” This line implies that death brings an eternal rest, a peaceful sleep where everything comes to a close.
In this stanza, the poet uses the imagery of the fading day and approaching night to convey the idea of his own mortality. He wants the person he’s addressing to understand that just as the day fades away, so does his own life. It adds a sense of reflection and contemplation on the passage of time and the impermanence of human existence.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
The Dying Fire:
In the third stanza, the poet continues to describe his current state and draws a comparison to a dying fire. He says, “In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire.” It’s like he’s telling the person looking at him to see the fading warmth and brightness within him.
He says, “That on the ashes of his youth doth lie.” It means that just as a fire burns out and leaves behind ashes, his youthful energy and passion have diminished over time.
He further emphasizes this idea by comparing himself to a dying fire on a deathbed. He says, “As the death-bed whereon it must expire.” This line suggests that his fading vitality is like a fire that is slowly fading away and reaching its end.
He says, “Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.” This means that the same things that once gave him energy and life are now causing his decline.
In the final line of the stanza, the poet reflects on how this realization strengthens the love of the person who sees him in this state. He says, “This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong.” It suggests that the person’s love grows stronger when they see and understand the poet’s vulnerability and mortality.
In this stanza, the poet uses the metaphor of a dying fire to illustrate his diminishing energy and the fading of his youth. It conveys a sense of inevitability and the bittersweet nature of the passage of time. The person observing him is invited to recognize the fleeting nature of life and find strength in their love despite the transient nature of human existence.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Love in the Face of Mortality:
In the fourth stanza , the poet reflects on the profound impact of his own mortality and emphasizes the importance of cherishing love and relationships.
The poet acknowledges that the passing of time and the approach of old age can bring about changes in a person’s physical appearance. He says, “This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong.” It means that the person who sees him aging and understands the fleeting nature of life becomes even more deeply devoted to him.
The poet describes how, despite his own decline, the person’s love remains steadfast and unwavering. He says, “To love that well which thou must leave ere long.” This line suggests that even though the person knows that they will eventually have to part ways due to the poet’s mortality, their love remains strong and enduring.
The poet emphasizes the value of appreciating the present moment and the time spent together. He wants the person to understand the significance of their love in the face of impermanence. It’s like he’s saying, “Let’s make the most of the time we have, as it won’t last forever.”
In this stanza, the poet explores the notion that the awareness of mortality can deepen love and strengthen relationships. It serves as a reminder to cherish the connections we have and to find beauty and meaning in the fleeting moments of life.