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Vocabulary in Sonnet 73

Vocabulary Examples in Sonnet 73:

Sonnet 73


"love..."   (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.

"thy love..."   (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.

"This..."   (Sonnet 73)

“This” is another deictic moment. “This” could refer to the aging of the speaker that the youth has witnessed throughout the poem or it could refer to the speaker’s “consuming” love for the youth.

"his youth..."   (Sonnet 73)

The use of “his” in this line is subtle. In Elizabethan parlance, “his” often served as a replacement for “its,” and granted possession to gender-neutral subjects, such as the fire. Yet the fire is a metaphor for a human life, and so the use of “his” succeeds in anthropomorphizing the fire in a fitting manner. The specifically male tone of “his” is appropriate in that the fire represents the male speaker’s dwindling life.

"the twilight..."   (Sonnet 73)

“Twilight” takes its prefix from the germanic root twi, meaning “two”; thus “two lights.” This etymology is useful because the poem traces two forms of light: the setting sun in the second quatrain, and the fire which burns itself out in the third quatrain.

"Bare ruined choirs..."   (Sonnet 73)

“Bare ruined choirs” also extends the printmaking metaphor. A “choir” refers to a pair of connected leaves of paper, the central seam of which is stitched into the book’s spine. The image of “bare ruined choirs” suggests an end to the speaker’s poetic output. His pages have become “bare,” empty of verse, or “ruined” by the ravages of time.

"Bare ruined choirs..."   (Sonnet 73)

“Bare ruined choirs” also evokes the image of abandoned churches, “choir” then metonymically referring to the area in a church where the choir sings. This serves as a historical allusion to the desecration of the Catholic monasteries during the Protestant Reformation in England. When Henry VIII left the Catholic Church in 1534, his orders left many cathedrals bare and ruined across the English landscape.

"yellow leaves..."   (Sonnet 73)

“Yellow leaves” both refers to dying leaves on a tree and pages in a book. Early Modern English paper was made out of clothing scraps and generally had a yellow hue due to the papermaking process. This does not necessarily mean the paper is old, though it could also be a reference to pages in medieval books which were made on yellow vellum, animal skin paper.

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