Metaphorically Speaking – Sonnet 73

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Metaphorically Speaking – Sonnet 73

Love is a blanket of bright and colorful flowers that covers a beautifully rolling meadow on a breezy summer day. Similar metaphorical images appear in many famous poems including Shakespeare's "Sonnet 73." The metaphor is the most basic device poets use to convey meanings beyond literal speech (Guth 473).

Shakespeare's use of metaphors in this sonnet conveys his theme of the inescapable aging process. Shakespeare "establishes and extends a metaphor that illuminates the poem's central meaning" and compares the inevitability of old age to three different aspects of nature (Prather). Similarly all the metaphorical quatrains begin with either the phrase "thou mayest in me behold" or "In me thou seest" (Shakespeare 1-5). These phrases reveal the author's awareness of the natural process occurring within his body and he compares this aging process to the three natural occurrences of nature including the seasonal change to autumn, a sunset, and a slowly perishing fire.

Shakespeare metaphorically relates his timely aging to the seasonal change into autumn. The first four lines of his poem read "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 ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang" (Shakespeare 1-4). Shakespeare compares aging and the approach of death to the coming and setting in of autumn. Guth and Rico explain that Shakespeare uses the metaphor of autumn to describe the "approaching of old age as the late autumn of the speaker's life" (568). He gives his readers the image of the last of the yellow leaves clinging to the bare branches much like humans who cling to their ...

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...s thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, / To love that well which thou must leave ere long [before long] (Shakespeare 13-14). Through these last two lines, Shakespeare conveys to his readers the importance of holding on to life and love while it exists for one day it will cease to be.

Works Cited

Guth, Hans P. and Gabriele L. Rico, eds. Discovering Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997, 473.

Prather, William. "Essay Topics." 1 April 1999. Online Posting. English 1102: Discovering Literature On-Line Spring 1999 Syllabus. 6 April 1999.

Shakespeare, William. "Sonnet 73." Discovering Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays. Ed. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele L. Rico. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 568-569.
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