Tone in Sonnet 60
Tone Examples in Sonnet 60:
"cruel hand..." See in text (Sonnet 60)
As soon as the youth is referenced in the poem, Time is once again figured as “cruel.” “Despite” means in contempt of, or in opposing for to. This language recalls the tone of the sonnets that preceded Sonnet 60 in which the speaker threatened Time and claimed that his poetry could preserve the youth. This final turn challenges the tranquil and resigned tone of the rest of this poem.
"And yet..." See in text (Sonnet 60)
The “and yet” that begins this couplet signals a tonal shift, a final challenge to the argument of the poem. The first three quatrains argue that time is cyclical and will destroy all things. This final couplet undermines the argument by offering one final complication to the logic of the poem thus far.
"confound..." See in text (Sonnet 60)
“Confound” means to bring to ruin, spoil, or destroy. Within this metaphor, the speaker makes youth and beauty a “gift” that belongs to time. Time can therefore give and destroy this gift. Because it belongs to time, there is not the same violence, anger, or sense of violation that comes with the speaker’s previous descriptions of time destroying youth. Here the speaker seems to recognize that Time “confounds” the gift of youth as part of a continual, cyclical process.
"Time that gave..." See in text (Sonnet 60)
“Time that gave” is an allusion to the Biblical quote “The lord giveth and the lord taketh away” (Job 1:21). Within this allusion, Time is aligned with God, the giver and destroyer of all things. Unlike its depiction in the previous sonnets in the sequence, Time is no longer seen as an enemy that is blamed for stealing and devouring youth, but an entity that can “give.” The speaker takes on a more rational view of time, acknowledging its necessity, in spite of the tragedy it brings. The speaker will turn away from this rationalization as the poem comes to a close.