Metaphor in Sonnet 60

Metaphor Examples in Sonnet 60:

Sonnet 60 10

"eclipses..."   (Sonnet 60)

“Eclipses” reiterates the “sun” imagery suggested by “nativity.” In this metaphor, each human is born a sun, flooded in light, and then slowly broken down by time and age. Time “eclipses” innocence with the harsh realities of the world.

"Crooked..."   (Sonnet 60)

“Crooked” suggests the state of being bent in character, twisted, tortured, or malignant. It can also signify being bent by age, having a crooked spine. Within this metaphor, the speaker aligns old age with a corrupt character to suggest that age and time corrupt the glorious innocence of childhood.

"times..."   (Sonnet 60)

The pluralization of time to “times” points back to the first quatrain, in which time is related through plural metaphors: time as waves, time as minutes. This pluralization also doubles as personification: future “times” can refer, then, to future people who might read “my verse.”

"Crawls..."   (Sonnet 60)

The child “crawling” represents the passage of time from birth to adulthood. “Crawls to” suggests that this child is moving towards maturity with purpose; the child intentionally leaves the innocent edenic paradise of the “open main” in order to reach maturity. However, “crawling” also has connotations of slow movement, dragging, or laboring across the ground. This depiction of stunted movement suggests that man’s life is never more glorious than his birth: all actions after birth are labored and crooked.

"main of light,..."   (Sonnet 60)

“Main of light” can also mean flooded by light or sea of light. This metaphor layers more images on “nativity”: nativity could be the birth of the sun, or the sun rise, bathing the earth in a sea of light. In this way, the metaphor conflates nature, the human life cycle, and religion.

"main of light,..."   (Sonnet 60)

“Main of light” refers to the open sea. Unlike the “pebbled shore” that signaled the end of life in the first quatrain, this open sea represents a state of pure Edenic innocence; the child is out on the sea as far from the shore as it is from death.

"scythe..."   (Sonnet 60)

The symbol of the “scythe” in this line weaves together multiple metaphorical threads. The scythe maintains the agrarian imagery of the third quatrain. It also alludes to Chronos, the Greco-Roman god of time—Chronos is the origin of “chronology.” This allusion casts time in a distinctly negative light, for Chronos, with his scythe, represents time in all of its destructive force. Finally, on the level of imagery, the curved scythe brings to mind again the symbols of crookedness and eclipses found in the second quatrain.

"nothing stands..."   (Sonnet 60)

The extended agricultural metaphor finds its conclusion. In the previous line, the act of harvesting is limited to the “rarities,” the most beautiful people. Here, the metaphorical scope widens as “nothing stands” against the scythe.

"rarities..."   (Sonnet 60)

The agricultural metaphor continues in line 11. After the stage of cultivation, the “rarities of nature’s truth” are harvested and eaten. In a sense, this line narrows the scope of the metaphor to the “rarities” alone—the cream of the crop, so to speak. This focus on nature’s “rarities” harkens back to the first line of Sonnet 1: “From fairest creatures we desire increase.” The speaker laments that even nature’s finest specimens are destroyed.

"parallels..."   (Sonnet 60)

The third quatrain develops a subtle, extended agricultural metaphor to describe the cycle of human life. On one level, the “parallels” being “delve[d]” in “beauty’s brow” continue the theme of time taking away beauty, with the literal image of an aging face developing wrinkles. On another level, the delving of the parallels also evokes the tilling of fields at the start of the farming season. The cultivation of the soil marks the beginning of the life cycle.