The Use Of Time In Poetry: Milton, Shakespeare, Wordsworth Essay, Research Paper
Throughout the Elizabethan and Romantic era, time and nature are themes that are ever-present in the
great poetry of the period. Although the poets presented this idea in different ways, it was clear that time
and nature were major influences on each man?s writing and that each of them were, in a sense, extremely
frustrated by the concept of time. It appeared to me that each poet, in some form, felt empty and
unaccomplished, and they all consider as true that time is not on their side. In Shakespeare?s Sonnet
LXXIII, the poet is an older man comparing his life to such things as night and day, the four seasons, and
as a fire in a fire. Shakespeare uses these images to show us just how quickly time passes. I found his
representation of life as the cycle of day and night particularly insightful.
?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.?
To Shakespeare, dawn is the birth of a child, mid-day is a child?s youth, and twilight, his current
stage, is the stage of life when death is approaching, although it has not yet arrived. The sun has set, and
the sky is a beautiful color, but the black night, death, will take that all away. He knows he is past his prime
and now he just awaits death. It is easy to see that Shakespeare is quite frustrated because he knows that
death is coming, but he doesn?t know when it is coming. The comparison of the cycle of day and night to
the cycle of life made me realize how hurried life is and how you should appreciate and make the most of
the time you have. The phrase ?death?s second self? is especially strong as he is saying that every time
you go to sleep, it is like a small death. Every time you go to sleep, you lose another day. Shakespeare
resolves this problem with a couplet that screams love me now while I am still here because when I am
gone you will regret not loving me.
Time is also a main theme in Milton?s ?How Soon Hath Time?. Milton, however, is concerned
because he feels that he has nothing to show for his life and he is scared that death is approaching him.
He personifies time, calling it ?the subtle thief of youth?. At the age of 23, he can?t believe how time is just
passing him by. It is clear in lines 5-8 that he is frustrated, saying that although on the outside he may look
like a child, inside he is a mature man.
?Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arriv?d so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear…?
He knows God has given him a talent, but he hasn?t been able to do anything with it yet and he is afraid
that the speed of time will take his great opportunity away from him. Milton presents us with his distress,
but he shows a his maturity by accepting whatever God?s plan for him is.
?All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Taskmaster?s eye.?
Wordsworth, however, has a completely different presentation of time in ?The Daffodils?. He is
lonely, as the opening line, ?I wandered lonely as a cloud?, clearly states, but he is not as frustrated with
time as the other poets. In the poem, he is wandering aimlessly until he sees a ?crowd? of daffodils. They
appear to be dancing in a ?sprightly? dance, which cheers him up. At that moment in time, nothing
surpassed the beauty of the daffodils.
?The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee.?
Wordsworth was filled with happiness at that point, but he doesn?t realize how much ?wealth? the
dafodils had actually brought him. In the last stanza he is saying that now, no matter how upset or
unhappy he may be, the memory of the daffodils will cheer him up. All he has to do is think back to that
point in time when he was watching the daffodils dance and it will bring him happiness.
?For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye…
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils?
I think the poet?s all share a common ground when it comes to the subject of time and nature,
although Wordsworth, to me, seems to be more in tune to nature than the others. It is clear that time and
nature were heavy themes in poetry during the Elizabethan and Romantic eras.