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On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three

by John Milton

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Discuss the feelings of John Milton on reaching the age of twenty-three.

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The poem "On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three" by John Milton offers several insights into how the poet feels when he reaches the age of 23.

First of all, he is dismayed at the swift passage of time. He refers to time as the "subtle thief of youth." The "hasting days" steal his youth. He is concerned because time has passed so quickly and he has not yet accomplished anything worthwhile. We see this in the passage that says "my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th." He is comparing the totality of his life to the seasons in a year. He considers that at the age of 23, his life has entered the late springtime. In spring the trees normally begin to blossom, and he is concerned that his efforts have not yet blossomed into noteworthy deeds.

Milton reflects on his "semblance," or appearance, and suggests that it "might deceive the truth" that he is so close to manhood. This may indicate that Milton thinks that he looks younger than he is, and he is concerned that people may not perceive his maturity, or his "inward ripeness," because of his youthful outward appearance.

Milton then changes his tone and reflects that "be it less or more, or soon or slow," things will still happen in the "strictest measure" of time and the will of God. In other words, he has no control over these things with which he is concerned such as the swift passage of youth, the way he looks, and how much he has so far been able to accomplish. Everything will happen in God's time, and he simply has to accept these limitations.

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