The poem in focus is titled “Sonnet 73” and it is authored by William Shakespeare. Among Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, Sonnet 73 is one of the most famous as it focuses on the theme of old age, which is everyday’s talk and topic and as it encompasses imagery, which although make it complicated, enhances its ability to be memorized by readers. Regarding the physical composition of the poem, it invokes a series of metaphors that help in characterizing his old age. Other than invoking metaphors, the poem also invokes a pattern of rhyme, which is evident at the end of the lines in the first, second, and third quatrains, as well as the couplet. Despite the complications accompanying the poem such as the use of metaphors that cannot be understood easily by a reader, the poem is interesting and makes one understand the simplicity of life, as the latter is compared to three things namely the burning out of fire, the passing of day, and the season of autumn. In the real sense, the poem reminds readers of the stages of life from birth till death, and that the latter is inevitable, and its final point is that both old age and death are inevitable, and every individual must experience either or both at one point in life.
Several poetic elements are evident in the poem, one of them being the structural element, which is highlighted by the fact that it encompasses three quatrains and a two-line couplet, and it is imperative to note that the first quatrain has a rhyme scheme of abab, which is as follows:
…in me behold a
…or few, do hang b
…shake against the cold, a
…late the sweetest birds sang. B
On the other hand, the second quatrain has a rhyme scheme of cdcd, and this is illustrated below:
…such day c
…in the west d
…doth take away, c
…all in rest d
The third quatrain has a regular rhyme scheme of efef, which is illustrated as follows.
…glowing of such fire e
…youth doth lie, f
…it must expire, e
…it was nourished by. F
Similarly, the poem’s couplet has a regular rhyme scheme pattern of gg, and this is illustrated as follows.
…love more strong g
…must leave ere long g
It is also evident that there is the use of a consistent metaphor at the end of every quatrain, and this is where the poet compares one aspect to another. For example, at the end of the second quatrain, death’s second self is compared to a perspective that seals up all in rest, and this is seen as the author’s acknowledgment of own mortality as well as view on aging.
The poem’s primary theme is that of old age, and this is evident throughout the poem. The theme of old age is evident in the first quatrain where the poet likens his age to a “time of year,” which in this case is autumn, during which leaves have almost completely fallen from trees, birds have left their branches, and the weather has grown cold. The theme of old age is also highlighted in the second quatrain where the poet resembles his age to late twilight, “As after sunset fadeth in the west,” and he goes ahead to state that the remaining light is extinguished in the darkness slowly, and this is likened to “Death’s second self.” Also, the third quatrain talks about old age, and this is evident when the speaker compares himself to the glowing remnants of a fire, which he goes ahead to say “lies on the ashes of his youth.” The latter are referred to as the ashes of the logs that enabled his youth to burn into old age. In the couplet, the speaker attributes his demise from earth to old age, and this is highlighted when he tells the young man, who is presumably his audience, that he will soon be parted from the speaker because of death resulting from old age.
The use of imagery is evident in Sonnet 73, and this is one of the aspects that make it complicated. For instance, in the third quatrain, there is an image of the fire that was consumed by the ashes of its youth. This signifies that the speaker’s old age is because of the disappearance of his youth, which is almost causing his death never to rise again.
In Sonnet 73, the speaker is an old man at the verge of death, given the accounts of the time he lives in presently. The speaker says that he is in that time of the year when there are no leaves hanging from trees, the weather is cold, and birds are no longer found on tree branches. It is evident throughout the poem that the speaker is speaking to a young man, who is yet to experience old age and has no idea what it is all about. The speaker’s tone throughout the poem is pensive, and this is highlighted by the fact that he mentions more about what transpired during his youth through to old age.
In a nutshell, like every other Shakespearean sonnet, Sonnet 73 is divided into quatrains, of which, one leads to another. It also has a couplet that seems to blend with the rest of the poem, and this is because it does not have a recycled rhyme scheme like the preceding quatrains.