Themes in Sonnet 73
Themes Examples in Sonnet 73:
"love..." See in text (Sonnet 73)
“Love” here could reference multiple ideas that the poem has brought up. The lost “love” could be the speaker, who will die and leave the youth behind. It could also reference the youth’s own life and beauty. This second reading of the line makes the poem a commentary on the ephemerality of all life, not just his own. All men, even the youth, cherish their lives because their lives will inevitably end in death.
"that..." See in text (Sonnet 73)
The use of “that” allows the final couplet’s sentiment to resonate on two registers. “That” refers to the speaker himself, the object well loved by the fair youth. The language is vague enough that the specific characters disappear. “That” also refers, more broadly, to all that one “must leave ere long.” In a similar way, we can read “thou” as a hypothetical you, a nod to all. Thus, the couplet offers a universal meditation: as humans, we love most those we must soon leave.
"thy love..." See in text (Sonnet 73)
The reader’s understanding of “this” affects their reading of “thy love.” If “this” is the speaker’s love for the youth, then “thy love” could refer to the youth’s love for the speaker: the speaker’s portrayal of his consuming love makes the youth love him more. If “this” is the speaker’s aging, then “thy love” could refer to the youth’s self-love or narcissistic love of his beauty: in watching the speaker age, the youth loves his youth even more. “Thy love” could also be a syntactically fraught way of saying my love for you, “thy” characterizes rather than possesses “love”, which would mean that the youth’s ability to perceive the speaker’s internal anguish makes the speaker’s love for him more strong.
"rest..." See in text (Sonnet 73)
While “rest” furthers the metaphor of sleep, it necessarily describes the oblivion of death as well. The notion that death might be “rest” offers a positive perspective on the speaker’s eventual fate. Indeed, in Sonnet 73 the speaker takes a resigned, rather than combative, stance against his primary foes—time and death.
"seals up..." See in text (Sonnet 73)
“Seals up” carries connotations of both death and sleep. In death, a coffin “seals up” the deceased. “Seals” also suggests “to seel,” an archaic form that applies specifically to the sealing of eyes to prevent sight. Sight is an important conceit in the poem—“thou mayst in me behold”—and defines the relationship between the speaker and the fair youth. Thus the notion of being blinded in death emphasizes the eventual separation.
"against the cold..." See in text (Sonnet 73)
The printing press arrived in England in 1476 with printer William Caxton. It was revolutionary technology that allowed writers to reach mass audiences and preserve their work for generations. By juxtaposing print metaphors with winter, the speaker suggests that his printing endeavor has failed. “None” or “few” of his “leaves,” pages of poetry, survive against “the cold;” the “choirs,” collection of leaves in a book, are ruined. In combining images of winter with comparisons to books, the speaker reveals his worry that his poetry will not survive when it is printed; his poetry is just as subject to death as his body.