Essay on Sonnet 12 Analysis

627 Words Nov 7th, 2012 3 Pages
When I do count the clock that tells the time, 

And see the brave day sunk in hideous night; 

When I behold the violet past prime, 

And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;

When lofty trees I see barren of leaves 

Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,

And summer's green all girded up in sheaves 

Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard, 

Then of thy beauty do I question make, 

That thou among the wastes of time must go,

Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake

And die as fast as they see others grow; 

And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence

Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence. 


-- William Shakespeare
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In the second quatrain, the speaker again reflects upon time’s ageing effect on life. In line 5 and 6, the speaker recalls of “lofty trees” “barren of leaves” that have seen better days when they once gave “the herd” shelter from “heat”. Time does not only take possessions from yourself but also what you have provided for others. In lines 7 and 8, the poet personifies “summer’s green” being gathered for harvest such as an old man with “bristly beard” would be taken his funeral.
In the third quatrain, the speaker questions beauty’s value. The poet sees no significance in beauty since it must eventually cease to “the wastes of time”. The poet uses a set of positive words “beauty”, “beautiest”, and “sweets” to imply a joyful tone when describing one’s prime, while using another set of words, “wastes”, “forsake”, and “die” to provide a negative tone when one loses the gift of beauty. In line 11 the speaker explains how “sweets” and “beauties” do eventually “forsake”. Then in line 12 the speaker states that beauties “die as fast as they see others grow”, meaning that even something so beautiful cannot escape time’s wrath. The speaker ends the sonnet with a solution to “Time’s scythe” in the final couplet. The poet uses positive diction such as “defence”, “breed”, and “brave” to provide the reader some comfort in this depressing sonnet. In line 13 the speaker explains metaphorically that no one “can make defence” “ gainst Time’s scythe”,

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