Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare is widely read and studied. But what is Shakespeare trying to say? Though it seems there will not be a simple answer, for a better understanding of Shakespeare's Sonnet 73, this essay offers an explication of the sonnet from The Norton Anthology of English Literature:
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.
In me thou seest 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 seest the growing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long. (879)
This sonnet rhymed abab cdcd efef gg form. Most of his sonnets were written in the 1590s at the height of the vogue, but they were not published until 1609. The first 126 are addressed to a young man; the remainder (with the exception of the last two, which are conventional sonnets on Cupid) are addressed to an unknown "Dark Lady." Whether or not Shakespeare laid bare his heart in his sonnets, as many critics have contended, they are his most personal poems.
... middle of paper ...
...ine 14). "Leave" in line 14 does not mean more than "leave behind."
Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 well fills and fits the three quatrains and single couplet of the Elizabethan sonnet. We can be sure there is no doubt to believe that some of Shakespeare's sonnets, like Sonnet 73, were well known and he was surely placed at the head of the dramatists and high among the non-dramatic poets. As Bender and Squier claimed (75), in the sixteenth century, Shakespeare is England's greatest playwright and the best of the Elizabethan sonneteers.
Abrams, M. H., et al., The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1986.
Bender, Robert M., and Charles L. Squier, eds. The Sonnet: An Anthology. New York: Washington Square P, 1987.
McAuley, James. Versification: A Short Introduction. Michigan: Michigan UP, 1985.
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