How does the poet present change through imagery in "When I Was Fair and Young?"

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The imagery of time is one way change is presented in "When I Was Fair and Young."

The opening stanza of the poem shows the power of youth.  The speaker is able to say those who wish to woo her "Go, go, go, seek some other where; importune me no more."  Time imagery is seen when the speaker shows how "favor graced" her because of her young age.  Many wanted her.  She was in the position to reject them because of her youth and presumable beauty. This imagery is enhanced with the number of "weeping eyes" and "sighing hearts" that defined her condition.  The imagery of being young and having the power to dismiss many because of it is significant to the poem.

The imagery of age follows that of youth. It is essential in communicating change.  When the divine son of Venus, or Cupid, says that the speaker is being too coy, he essentially "punishes" her for her youthful hubris.  The pictures that follow show that of regret.  This is enhanced with the speaker saying how a different type of "change grew in my breast" as a sense of disquietude grew.  A mental picture of age emerges when the speaker confesses "I did repent that I had said before."  The remorse of age has supplanted youthful arrogance.  This time- based imagery is essential to communicating how the poem shows change.