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Shakespeares sonnet 19

Shakespeare's Sonnet 19

In his Sonnet 19, Shakespeare

presents the timeless theme of Time's mutability. As the lover apostrophizes

Time, one might expect him to address "old Time" as inconstant, for

such an epithet implies time's changeability. But inconstant also suggests

capricious, and the lover finds time more grave than whimsical in its alterations.

With the epithet "devouring" he addresses a greedy, ravenous

hunger, a Time that is wastefully destructive.

Conceding to Time its wrongs, the lover at first appears to encourage Time to

satisfy its insatiable appetite. Indeed, he familiarly addresses Time as

"thou" as he commands it harshely to "blunt, n "make the

earth devour, n "pLuck," and "burn." Not onLy are the

verbs "blunt,n npluck," and "burn" linked by assonance,

but also by their plosive initial consonants, so that the Lover's orders sound off

Time's destructiveness as well. Each line offers a different image of Time at

work: on the lion, the earth, the tiger, the phoenix-bird. Time is indiscriminate in

its devouring.

In the second quatrain, the lover grants to Time its own will: "And do

whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time," acknowLedging priorly that in its

fleet passage Time does "Make glad and sorry seasons. n For the first

time one sees Time in other than a destructive capacity--in its cycLical change

of seasons, some Time does "make glad" with blooming sweets. So

the lover changes his epithet from devouring to swift-footed, certainly more

neutral in tone. For now the lover makes his most assertive command:

"But I forbid thee one most heinous crime. n The final quatrain finds the

lover ordering Time to stay its antic "antique pen" from aging or

marring his love. It is a heinous crime to carve and draw lines on youth and

beauty. ere the Lover no Longer speaks with forceful pLosives; his speech, for

all the appearance of imperative command, sounds more Like a plea or earnest


The poet-lover changes his pleaful tone to one of scorn as he finally orders

"Yet do thy worst, old Time. Time is no longer devouring or swift-footed,

merely old. And age as Time will, the lover realizes "My love shall in my

verse ever live young." Shakespeare eludes swift-footed devouring Time,

giving immortality to youth, beauty, and one man's love through his surviving


Source: Essay UK -

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