Sonnet 64 Derived from the early Petrarchan form, William Shakespeare’s sonnets maintain an iambic pentameter however implore an uncharacteristic rhyme scheme and have a final couplet with such strength that the whole character of the form is changed creating a clear thought division between the twelfth and thirteenth line. Shakespeare’s style unique sonnet style became, in his time, the predominate English form. However, some poems such as John Keats’ On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer retained the classic Italian form.(Crowell pg 945) Shakespeare’s Sonnet Sixty-Fourhold’s true to the classic Shakespearean sonnet form, having three quatrains and a finalizing couplet. Utilizing the techniques personification, chiasmus, and enjambement, Shakespeare reveals that time, destroying all tangible seemingly indestructible creations, will ultimately take “love away.” To reveal the passage of time Shakespeare divides his sonnet into three quatrains with each quatrain creating a specific thought. The opening quatrain begins with the forceful image of the personification of time, with the use of a capital; “Time.” Like one’s “hand,” time is capable of destroying the seemingly indestructible “lofty towers” and “brass”. Man is an “eternal slave” to time.
In these opening lines Shakespeare is revealing that our ambitions drive the building of higher “towers” and stronger “brass,” however, even as we strive to create monuments of greater magnitude and fortitude, time will always be the victor and man’s empires will be “down-razed.” Shakespeare quickly humbles the reader with powerful destructive words, “buried”; “defaced”; “down-razed” and, consequently, one realizes that one day our present creations will stand no more and what stands in their place will only be dictated by time’s “hand.” The second quatrain maintains the image of time’s destructive powers. With the rhyme scheme cdcd and the rhythmic advances of enjambement ” . . . Seen the hungry ocean gain advantage on the kingdom of the shore, ” Shakespeare is able to create a sense of the back and forth cyclic motion of the ocean. Describing the battle between the ocean, “watery main,” and the “firm soil” Shakespeare shows that nature is also influenced and changed by Time’s “feel hand.” As man’s monuments fall, time changes our natural world as well, creating a broad and rich geologic history. With chiasmus in this quatrain Shakespeare finalizes and supports the powerful image of the endless cycle of the ocean and the unstoppable force of time as it destroys our lands and dictates our future.
“..store with loss and loss with store.” The final quatrain deals with the impact of time in a social setting. Shakespeare illustrates how time can destroy kingdoms, rulers and dynasties, ultimately causing the “interchange of state” with the state itself, eventually being subject to “decay.” The use of “decay” incorporates natural elements into the ideology of time’s “eternal forces” creating a direct link with the second quatrain. The ideas revealed in the final and preceding quatrains allow Shakespeare to “ruminate” and finalize his conclusions about time. The first person style, “I have seen” and the natural progression of related ideas about time in the three quatrains allows the reader to view the poem as a meditation. Therefore the poem, in a sense, is Shakespeare’s thought progression. At the closing of the final quatrain his realization about the impacts of time is clear; time has caused “ruin” of the physical world and has a power beyond comprehension and, with this ultimate power, time will eventually take his “love away.” His finalizing line of the third quatrain, “That time will come and take my love away,” provokes thought not only in the poet but, as well, in the reader.
Does time really take love away? How does time dictate our lives? This provocation of thought leads naturally to the couplet where the thought is concluded. The couplet in Sonnet Sixty-Four delves into the universal element of man’s mortality. As Shakespeare reveals death is inevitable and with its coming brings the loss of his “love.” “Death” is a fact which one “cannot choose.” The death of loved ones, for Shakespeare, is a subject which he “fears” and an idea which causes him sadness; “weep to have.” Shakespeare reveals that time will topple buildings and weather mountains but the ultimate sacrifice to time, is life. Shakespeare’s language: “ruin,” “defaced,” “eternal slave,” “decay” suggests a conflict between humanity and time. It seems as though Shakespeare almost blames time for being the eventual vehicle that “takes his love away.” However, Shakespeare is forgetting an integral aspect of time.
Without time Shakespeare would have no love, nor would our society grow and manifest great structural monuments. Similar to sonnet Sixty-Four, Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill deals with a personified, time, however illustrates the gifts of time as well as its restrictions. Thomas acknowledges Time’s control over our lives, “Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.”(Thomas line 53) Like the sea Thomas doesn’t mind undergoing “store with loss and loss with store” and being part of the continuous cycle of life. He “sings” in the face of Time. Thomas acknowledges time’s “chains” however he also realizes as time takes life away it also allows for life to begin.
“Time let me play and be in the golden mercy of his means.”(Thomas Line 13) Shakespeare “weeps” at the fear of losing love where if he thought logically he would realize that time will take his “love away” and instead of wasting the precious time of life weeping with fear he should relish the gift of time in which he is able to spend with his “love.” As Thomas reveals “Time allows in all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs…”.(Thomas line 43) Death is inevitable so one must cherish one’s very short life. Sonnet Sixty -four, however, does provoke strong emotion on the vastness, and greatness of time as a catalyst for our current lifestyle. The power of time is beyond the furthest reaches of our mind. Shakespeare’s use of personification brings time to a mortal level, a level which we can comprehend. The personified “Time” is given more life with the use of enjambement and chiasmus.
These techniques give one a richly painted picture of the mechanics of time and its dynamic effect on our society, past and present. We then are able to “ruminate”, as Shakespeare did, and create our own conclusions about time and its universal impacts. Shakespeare’s ultimate purpose in Sonnet Sixty Four is to paint this vivid picture of the impact of time, then allowing the reader to then create his or her own couplet or conclusive thought. Sonnet sixty four allowed me to realize that time is something to be valued and that it has an awesome power which should be respected, for in an instant it can take “love away,” however ultimately we as humans must learn “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” (Tennyson line 75) Bibliography Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. London press: 1964 Tennyson. Ulysses. 1842 Thomas.
Fern Hill: Http://www.tdesign.com/mulder/fernhill.html Crowell & Co. A Reader’s Encyclopedia. NY:1965.