A Poem for Autumn


“In the following Sonnet #73 Shakespeare begins with a simple observation that in gazing upon him his lover sees only the remnants of age (“yellow leaves”) hanging upon the withered skeleton of his aging self (“bare ruined choirs” = leave-less trees).

“That Shakespeare was only 30 (probably younger) at the time he wrote the poem speaks to his ability to imaginatively command a scene he had not yet experienced. From that he expands to a meditation on death (“after the sunset fadeth in the west”) and in the third quatrain expands even that metaphor by likening his aging body/self as the last ashes of his burning youth.

“He pivots from these tokens of gloom to end on a positive affirmation of love, for as he tells his beloved he recognizes that it only makes his lover’s love stronger that he loves one who must soon leave (die).” (by Dr. Andrew Roth, Book Notes # 116)

Sonnet #73

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 see’st 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 see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the deathbed whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.


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