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Sonnet No 73 Questions and Answers

Sonnet No 73 Questions and Answers

 

Q. 1. In the sonnet beginning ‘That time of year’

(i) What are the three metaphors Shakespeare provides for old age?

(ii) What does he mean by ‘Death’s second self’?

(iii) How is the fire consumed with that which it was nourished by?

(iv) How and why is the love felt to be more strong? 

Ans. (i) In the sonnet beginning ‘That time of year’ Shakespeare provides three metaphors for old age-(1) bare ruined tree; (2) glimmering twilight turning into a black night; (3) dying embers. Shakespeare compares himself in his old age to an autumnal or wintry tree with a few yellow leaves or none hanging on the branches which stand out sharp and gaunt. The leafless boughs which shake against the cold and where birds lately sang are compared to bare ruined choirs. The poet too is like bare ruined choirs. The poet compares himself to the glimmering twilight turning into a black night. The metaphor of twilight with darkness quickly devouring the earth beautifully evokes the poet’s decrepitude. The poet also provides the metaphor of the smouldering hearth where embers lie on top of ashes with the fuel all consumed. Likewise, the leaping flame of the poet’s youth has died down into a quiescent glow, which seems to lie on the ashes of his past and its vigour and which will ultimately fade out completely at the moment when the last trace of bodily vitality is exhausted.

(ii) ‘Death’s second self’ means sleep which, from classical times has commonly been referred to as ‘the elder brother of death’. When a man sleeps he is as unconscious of his surroundings as a dead man. Sleep closes up a man in repose; likewise death closes him up in repose which knows no break.

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(iii) A flame lives on the volatization of the fuel (i.e. wood, coal, oil etc.) and when that substance is itself consumed there is nothing to cause the flame that consumes it. The poet’s love for his Friend, in its youth, has fuelled the fire of his life. When the poet will die, the poet’s love for the youth which nurtured his life will also be extinguished. (the poet’s love for the youth is the fuel; his life is the fire.)

(iv) Love is felt to be more strong because the perception of the approaching demise of the poet and his love causes. the youth to love him and prize his love for himself faithfully and constantly. Love is felt to be more strong because it is not subject to the influence of devouring Time. It does not lose its vitality and vigour with the passing of time as one’s youth does.

 

Q. 2. Explain the following phrases from sonnet 73: (i) ‘That time of year’; (ii) ‘Twilight of such day’; (iii) ‘Death’s second self’; (iv) “The glowing of such fire’. 

Ans. (i) ‘That time of year’ means late autumn or early winter. In early winter or late autumn trees shed their leaves. A few yellow leaves or none are seen to hang on their boughs which shake in the cold. The trees look like the ruined remains of church choirs. Shakespeare uses the phrase, “that time of year” metaphorically. He compares himself in his old age to a leafless tree standing out sharp and gaunt and looking like a skeleton. The image of the leafless tree beautifully evokes the poet’s decrepitude.

(ii) The phrase ‘twilight of such day’ means the faint light that remains of the day after sunset. Shakespeare uses ‘twilight’ as a metaphor for decrepitude. Twilight means the end of day. With the twilight light fades away and darkness descends on earth. Likewise, with old age a man loses his vitality and vigour, and hears the footsteps of death approach him. As the twilight turns into a black night, so decrepitude turns into death.

(iii) ‘Death’s second self’ means sleep which, from classical times, has commonly been referred to as ‘the elder brother of death’. When a man sleeps, he remains unconscious of his surroundings like a dead man. Sleep closes up a man in repose; likewise death closes up a man in repose which knows no break.

(iv) ‘The glowing of such fire’ is a suggestive phrase. It means the embers of a hearth glowing before the final extinction into dead ashes. Embers lie on top of ashes after the fire has consumed the fuel (wood, coal, oil etc.) and there is no more fuel to produce the flame. The poet has used the image of ‘the glowing of such fire’ to evoke his decrepitude. The leaping flame of his youth has died down into a quiescent glow, which lies on the ashes of his past and its vigour as a person lies on death-bed, and will soon die together with the poet’s love for his Friend, which, in its youth, has fuelled the fire of his life to flame so brightly.

Q. 3. Explain the following from sonnet 73: (i) ‘Bare ruined choirs’; (ii) Why is night called ‘Death’s second self’; (iii) How can fire be consumed by the very thing that nourished it.

 

Ans. (i) ‘Bare ruined choirs’: This phrase has several levels of meaning (pictorial, historical, metaphorical). Pictorially it summons up the ruined remains of a church choir (i.e. the chancel, that part of the church where the service was read and sung.) in which only the branching, bough-like arches are left standing open to the elements. Metaphorically, it may refer to those leafless boughs which shake against the cold and which stand out sharp and gaunt in hoary winter. Historically it may be taken as a reference to the despoiling and destruction of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

‘Bare ruined choirs’ brings to the eye the roofless shells of monastic churches which met the eyes of anyone travelling round England in the later part of the sixteenth century.

(ii) Night is called death’s second self (i.e., death’s elder brother) from classical times, because night brings one rest after the day’s toil, just as death brings one eternal sleep after the life’s toil. Night is used metonymically here for sleep, because night symbolizes sleep. To refer to night (sleep) as death’s brother was a poetic convention of the time. Sidney calls sleep ‘the elder brother of death’ (The Old Arcadia).

(iii) Write the Ans. to Q. 1. (iii).

Q. 4. Analyse the sonnet ‘That time of year’ with reference to the following points: (i) Elizabethan sonnet conventions; (ii) Imagery; (iii) Concluding couplet.

Ans. (i) The sonnet ‘That time of year’ contains some Elizabethan sonnet conventions. Shakespeare in this sonnet imagines himself as a decrepit person troubled by the thoughts of approaching death. He compares himself to a leafless (bare) ruined tree standing like a skeleton in hoary winter. Actually Shakespeare could not have been as old as he appears in this sonnet, when it was composed. To depict themselves as old men was a convention among the sonneteers of the Elizabethan period. They often speak of their autumn-time of life. Robert Greene in his “Farewell to Folly”, 1591 says age is approaching and he is speaking of his many years at a time when he was not much past thirty. In Delia Daniel laments “My days are done” when he was only 29. Drayton, Shakespeare’s Warwickshire friend speaks in Idea’s Mirror of his withered brow all wrinkled with despairs. It was a common literary convention of the time to depict time as wreaking sweeping changes on all things that come to exist. A man, however great cannot escape Time’s scythe. In sonnet 73 we see a young man loses his youth with the passing of time, becomes a decrepit old man with vigour and vitality all gone, and waits for death to take him away after a while. It is due to the cyclic operation of time that morning turns into noon, noon into twilight and twilight into black night. The conception of sleep as the brother of death was also a conventional theme. Sidney calls sleep the elder brother of death.

(ii) Imagery: Write 5-7 paragraphs of the critical appreciation. (section [C]).

(iii) The concluding couplet of sonnet 73 contains a counter-statement to what has been said in the quatrains. In each quatrain Shakespeare not only delineates an autumnal, twilight or glowing present but foreshadows a winter, night or coming extinction. In the couplet the decay wrought by Time on the poet’s life is counter-acted by the Friend’s love growing stronger with the latter’s perception of the approaching demise of the poet and his love for himself. This perception causes the youth’s love for the poet to grow stronger, and makes him love the poet and prize his love more constantly and faithfully.

Q. 5. Explain and comment upon the series of images through which the poet evokes his decrepitude in sonnet 73 (‘That time of year’).

 

Ans. Write the discussion on imagery in the critical appreciation of

the sonnet 73 (Paras 5-7), section [C].

Q. 6. “Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.” (73) (i) Which features of the wintry landscape remind the poet of ‘Bare ruined choirs’? (ii) To what time of year does ‘late’ refer to? (iii) Bring out the pictorial, historical and metaphorical levels of meanings in “Bare ruined choirs.”

Ans. (i) The desolate features of the wintry landscape remind Shakespeare of ‘Bare ruined choirs.’

In winter trees have shed their leaves. A few green leaves or none hang upon the boughs that shake against the cold. The trees with leafless branches look like so many skeletons. They appear to be ruined remains of a church choir in which only the branching, bough-like arches are left standing open to the elements.

(ii) ‘Late’ refers to the time of year which precedes late autumn or early winter.

(iii) Write the Ans. to Q. 3(i).

Q. 7. Select any two of the following and show how they are treated in Shakespeare’s sonnet ‘That time of year’: (i) old age; (ii) use of metaphors; (iii) sonnet conventions; (iv) concluding couplet.

 

Ans. (i) Old age is an unwelcome period of man’s life. It succeeds youth, the best period of his life. His vitality and vigour is gone. He hears the fearful foot-steps of approaching death. That is why the mood of old

age is one of depression. In the sonnet, “That time of year’ Shakespeare portrays himself as a decrepit man.

(ii) Write the Ans. to Q. 1(i). (iii) Write the Ans. to Q. 4(i). (iv) Write the Ans. to Q. 4(iii).

 

Q. 9. How does Shakespeare make use of nature-imagery to describe the onslaughts of time on human life in sonnet 73 (‘That time of year’)?

Ans. Shakespeare’s sonnets are remarkable for the memorable treatment of injurious Time-Time that devours all things with the hard teeth of the years. To treat Time as an omnipresent and omniscient cosmic force was a sonneteering convention of the Elizabethan period, to be traced back to Horace and Ovid. It brings to decay, or subjects to revolutionary changes, all things that come into existence. Nothing can escape its scythe (onslaughts). It destroys or reduces into oblivion cities, kingdoms, marvels, youth, beauty etc. Man and nature go through series of changes and ultimately come to extinction owing to the operation of time. The injurious time has found a beautiful and the most famous expression in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida :

“Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back, Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,

A great-siezed monster of ingratitudes.”

In sonnet 73 we see that a young man loses his youth with the march of Time and becomes old with vigour and vitality all gone, and waits for death to take him away after a while. Nature is also subject to its onslaughts. Trees put forth green leaves and shed yellow ones, morning changes to noon, noon to twilight, twilight to night in a cyclic order. Shakespeare makes use of nature-imagery to describe decrepitude, the product of Time’s onslaughts on human life. To begin with, Shakespeare evokes his decrepitude through the image of autumnal or wintry trees with a few yellow leaves or none hanging on the branches which shake in the cold. The leafless branches look like ruined choirs where lately sweet birds sang. The poet uses the image of glimmering twilight to describe the onslaughts of time. Twilight will soon turn into a black night

as a result of Time’s operations. Likewise, with the triumphant march of Time the poet’s decrepitude will lead to death. The poet uses the image of black night to suggest death, the treasure-box in which Time hides everything. He also brings in the falconer image to suggest death. Just as a falconer sews up a hawk’s eyelids, so also death shuts up a man in eternal repose.

To conclude, Shakespeare uses the images of autumnal trees, twilight and falconry to show how Time rushes everything to decay and death.

 

 

Q. 11. How far is Shakespeare’s sonnet No. 73 a poem on time, love and death which makes use of ambiguous imagery?

Ans. Shakespeare’s sonnets are remarkable for the treatment of time’s havoc, death’s inevitability, and triumph of love over both. Devouring Time is a salient and Ovidian theme which was treated by the Elizabethan sonneteers. Shakespeare often personifies Time in the sonnets, and portrays it as consuming all that comes into existence-cities, kingdoms, monuments, youth, beauty, etc. with the hard teeth of the years. It wreaks sea-changes on man and nature, decays them and brings them to dissolution, in course of time. Death is the chest into which Time puts everything for oblivion. It is only over love that Time has no power : “Love’s not Time’s fool.” Shakespeare gives love a value above the death and decay wrought by Time.

Sonnet 73 is truly a poem on the themes of time, love and death, and Shakespeare makes use of ambiguous imagery to express them. He uses a series of images drawn from nature and house-hold matters to describe his decrepitude, effect of Time’s onslaught on him. Time has devoured his youth and has left him a decrepit old man. He is like an autumnal or wintry tree with a few yellow leaves or none hanging on the branches which shake in the cold. The poet uses the image of glimmering twilight to bring home the assaults of Time. Twilight will soon turn into a black night. Likewise, with the triumphant march of Time the poet’s uecrepitude will lead to death. The poet uses the image of black night to suggest death. He also brings in the falconer image to suggest death. Just as a falconer sews up a hawk’s eye-lids, so also death will close the poet up

in eternal repose. The image of embers in a dying hearth finely brings out the onslaughts of Time on a man’s life. The leaping flame of youth has died down into a quiescent glow which seems to lie on the ashes of his past and its vigour and which will ultimately fade out completely at the moment when the last trace of bodily vitality is exhausted.

In sonnet 73, as in others, Shakespeare gives love a value in the end above the decay or destruction caused by Time. The sonnet hinges on a note of despair. The poet’s life is fast falling into decay with his youth devoured by Time and he will soon die. But the poet’s decrepitude and his fast approaching death do not affect the Friend’s love for him. Rather the perception of the mortality and mutability of life causes his love to grow stronger. The youth’s love is here given a value in the end above the decay wrought by Time on the poet and the consequent despair that assails him. The couplet asserts this superiority of love :

“This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.”

Q. 5. In which stage of life is the poet’s persona supposed to be in Shakespeare’s sonnet no. 73. 

Ans. The poet’s persona is supposed to be, in Shakespeare’s sonnet No. 73, in the last stage of life which ends in death.

Q. 7. What do you understand by ‘Death’s second self”? (73) 

Ans. ‘Death’s second self’ means the sleep of death. Sleep, rather than night, is commonly called ‘the elder brother of death.’ Shakespeare here identifies death and sleep.

Q. 8. ‘Love’s not Time’s fool’ (116)-What idea of love does Shakespeare offers here. 

Ans. Shakespeare here offers the idea that love cannot be made the sport or mockery of Time, that love is not something that Time can destroy or harm. He might also mean that Time will never make a fool or slave of love.

Q. 9. ‘Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest’ (73)-What is death’s second self? Is the description appropriate? 

Ans. Sleep is death’s second self.

The description of sleep as death’s second self (i.e. the brother of death) is appropriate, because death shuts up all that comes into existence in eternal sleep (rest). There is in ‘seals up all in rest’, a metaphor derived from falconry. Just as a falconer sews up the eyes of a falcon to control its flight, so also sleep closes everything up in eternal rest. The word ‘rest’ hints at death as an end which is as much desired as feared.

Q. 27. “That time of year thou mayst in me behold, When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang.” (73)

What do you understand by ‘That time of year’? What is its metaphorical explanation? Explain the metaphor in ‘yellow leaves.”

Ans. “That time of year’ refers to late autumn or early winter. In late autumn trees are partly stripped of leaves. The leaves that still hang on the boughs are all yellow. In late winter trees are all leafless (bare).

‘That time of year’ is a metaphor for decrepitude.

‘Yellow leaves’ is a poetic metaphor for old age. It was a favourite image with the Elizabethan sonneteers.

Q. 28. Explain the pictorial, historical and metaphorical meaning of ‘Bare ruined choirs.”

Ans. Pictorially the expression ‘Bare ruined choirs’ summons up the ruined remains of a church choir (i.e. the chancel, that part of the church where the service was read and sung.) in which only the branching, bough-like arches are left standing open to the elements.

Historically it alludes to the despoiling and destruction of the monasteries under Henry VIII. ‘Bare ruined choirs’ brings to the eye the roofless shells of monastic churches which were a common sight to anyone travelling round England in the later part of the sixteenth century. Metaphorically it refers to the leafless boughs which shake against the cold.

Q. 29. ‘In me thou seest the twilight of such day.’ (73) Who are referred to by ‘me’ and ‘thou’? Explain the metaphor in ‘the twilight of such day.’

Ans. The speaker (or the poet) of the sonnets is referred to by ‘me’ and the friend of the speaker to whom the sonnets 1-126 are written to by ‘thou’. ‘The twilight of such day’ is a metaphor (image) for decrepitude. At twilight the sun sinks below the western horizon, and faint light remains of the day. Darkness descends on earth and soon covers it. The poet too is in the twilight of his life. The light of life is fading away and will soon be devoured by black night.

The sonnet is remarkable for its vivid, apt and It has been rightly said that the richness of Shakespeare’s sonnets derives more from their imagery and diction than from any other attribute. Imagery here not only adds to the richness of the sonnet, but also expresses the thought and evokes Time’s irresistible destructiveness. In line two mortality is imaged as a king overpowering his opponents (i.e. human artefacts and objects of nature). Beauty is imaged as an impotent litigant or agent pleading its case against Time seeking to devour it in line three. There is the battle and siege imagery in lines 5-6. Time is pictured as an army laying seige to the sweet warm winds of summer tirne which bring flowers to maturity. There is in “Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?” the image of a jewel, lent by Time for us to enjoy for a period, which we try to hide from Time that will take it back and lock it in its chest (the grave) for oblivion. Shakespeare seems fond of the image of a jewel in a chest. Compare sonnets 48 and 52; it appears in 2 Henry VI, 3, 2, 409-10 :

suggestive imagery.

“A jewel, locked into the woefull’st cask That ever did contain a thing of worth.”

as also in Richard II and King John. The jewel image reminds us of the famous beggar image of Time in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (3. 3. 145-7) :

“Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,

Wherein he puts alms for oblivion.” In “What strong hand can hold his swift foot back” Time is imaged as a swift runner. There is the military imagery in “his spoil o’er beauty.” Time is imaged as a soldier taking plunder from an enemy in battle. The poet’s love is imaged as the sun shining, for ever, clear and unsullied by decay or death.

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