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Sonnet 73(1609)

William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
MeterThat time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
MeterWhen yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
MeterUpon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
MeterBare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou seest the twilight of such day
MeterIn me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
MeterAs after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
MeterWhich by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
MeterDeath’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

Note on line 8: There’s a colloquial temptation to introduce into this line about death’s second self a second spondee in the 4th foot by stressing “up.” 4B4V declines that option, reckoning that the real money word here is “all”: the poet enforces the universality of death but is feeling too old to get melodramatic about it.


In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
MeterIn me thou seest the glowing of such fire,

Note on line 9: As usual we treat “fire” as a disyllable, thus creating a feminine ending for this and the rhyming line to come. A Stratford actor today might make it a monosyllable. Nobody can be sure how Shakespeare pronounced it — or for that matter the verb “seest” earlier in the line — four centuries ago. Consistency in usage is the most we can strive for here.

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
MeterThat on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
MeterAs the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
MeterConsumed with that which it was nourished by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
MeterThis thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

Note on line 13: In this sonnet Shakespeare employs only one initial trochaic inversion — ordinarily a favorite device of his — and this is definitely it. What “this” is, the unstated truth about youth and age, vitality and mortality, that the three quatrain conceits of the foregoing lines have enacted, is the sphinx-like riddle we are abruptly asked to solve. And from this riddle hangs another: what “that” refers to in the line that comes next.

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
MeterTo love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Rhyme
Show Stress    Foot division    Caesura    Syncopation