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William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 is a poem focused on the ravages of time; not only on one’s physical being, but, most importantly, the mental anguish that is caused by moving swiftly through life; time rapidly passing you by, growing further and further away from youth, and drawing ever nearer to the inevitable: death. The poet is inexorably moving from the autumn of his life and fast approaching his own ‘winter’, urging his friend to comprehend the brevity of life and to try to hold onto his youth and passion for as long as possible, before he too falls victim to the depredation of time.
The poem is a Shakespearean sonnet and has an ABAB rhyming scheme, with the linear development of the three quatrains reflecting the poet’s insecurities that his friend is only concerned with his physical deterioration. In the first quatrain, Shakespeare compares himself to the period of time between autumn and winter, stuck in a kind of limbo where ‘yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang’, emphasizing this image that his life has come down to simply waiting for the inevitable to occur.
The second quatrain sees Shakespeare compare himself to ‘the twilight of such day’, where his life will soon be extinguished by the ‘black night’. Followed by the third quatrain in which Shakespeare reveals he is in fact not speaking of his impending physical death, but instead the death of his youth; his passion; his links to the very thing their relationship was based upon.
The sonnet finishes with the rhyming couplet, desperately trying to convince him to make the most of his youth, and ‘love that well which thou must leave ere long’.
The Twa Corbies is a ballad concerning two crows which are about to eat a knight who has just been killed. The recurring theme throughout this poem is that, in life, social status means everything, in death, it means absolutely nothing, leaving you as nothing but food for crows. This idea presents the debate over the brevity of life, exploring the notion that, in comparison with nature, human life is insignificant, merely a brief sneeze of time.
The crows are given direct speech from the outset, further reinforcing the image of nature overruling human existence, combined with the unchanging rhyme and rhythm. The insignificance of humans is emphasized by the corbies display of contempt when discussing ‘him’, but when referring to him as a meal, they hold him in high regard. Each poem shares the same message; life is far too short to waste worrying about trivial things, and instead should embrace life, take each day as it comes and cherish your youth, before it is taken from you.
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