That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Paraphrase and Analysis of Sonnet 73
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The fatal bellman ... In Renaissance England the hoot of an owl flying over one's house was an evil omen, and meant impending death for someone inside. In Macbeth, Shakespeare refers to the owl as the "fatal bellman" because it was the bellman's job to ring the parish bell when a person in the town was near death. I am reminded of the famous line by Shakespeare's contemporary, John Donne, who wrote: "never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee" (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions).
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Sonnet Theories ... "All now agree that the Sonnets are a collection of almost matchless interest, a legacy from Shakespeare at once strange and precious, -- nothing less, in fact, than a preserved series of metrical condensations, weighty and compact as so many gold nuggets, of thoughts and feelings that were once in his mind. The interpretations of them collectively, however, the theories of their nature and purport collectively, differ widely." David Masson. Read on...