The entire sonnet is in the form of an apostrophe to Time, which is capitalized to establish it as an immensely powerful, all-consuming force. (An apostrophe is a direct address to an inanimate entity, such as a force of nature, or to an absent person.) Time eats up (“devours”) everything. In line one, the poet chooses an animal of great power, the lion, in order to highlight the fact that Time eventually reduces even the strongest, the fiercest, the kingliest of creatures to powerlessness. This is conveyed in the image of the lion’s sharp claws becoming blunt: Time will take away his ability to hunt and therefore to survive. In line two, the theme of the destructive nature of Time is expanded; it now applies not only to one specific creature but to everything in nature. The poet, still speaking directly to Time, instructs it to compel the earth to take back into herself everything that she has produced (“her own sweet brood”) however beautiful and delightful (“sweet”) those products may be. In these two lines, for reasons that he will later explain, it is as if the poet is egging Time on to perform the work that he knows Time will do anyway, without any encouragement from him.
In line 3, the poet further builds on the idea expressed in the first two lines. He selects another powerful wild creature, the tiger, and urges Time to pull out its teeth, thereby reducing to impotence...
(The entire section is 1047 words.)
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