How does this poem "How Soon Hath Time" By John Milton make you feel or think about ?1How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth, 2 Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year! 3 My hasting...

How does this poem "How Soon Hath Time" By John Milton make you feel or think about ?

1How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
2 Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year! 3 My hasting days fly on with full career,
4 But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
5 Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth
6 That I to manhood am arriv'd so near;
7 And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
8 That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.
9Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
10 It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n
11 To that same lot, however mean or high,
12Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n:
13 All is, if I have grace to use it so
14 As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.

Also is it imaginative, fantastic, true-to-life, moving , delightful etc ?

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, concerning Milton's "How Soon Hath Time," do you mean "what" instead of "How"?  How refers to the poet's methods, what refers to what it makes me feel. 

If you mean how, the speaker uses metaphor and personification to deprecate (put down) himself by revealing his shortcomings, then calming himself by placing his ambition and future into the hands of Time and Heaven.  On or very near his 24th birthday, the speaker laments his lack of progress.

The poem is ironic for us today.  What are the odds that one of the three greatest poets to ever write in the English language would feel so inferior and be questioning his promise and future at age 24?

And, if you mean, what, that is probably what I feel when I read the poem:  I simultaneously chuckle at the irony, and feel hope that maybe it's not too late for me.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first thing that this poem makes me think is how different things are today. I cannot imagine a person who has just turned 24 thinking about themselves as being old.  If you're 24 these days, you're sure not old.

The second thing I think is that this sounds very strange to me as a person who has recently turned 40.  The idea of thinking you're old at 24 is quite strange.

Overall, I'd say that this is a poem that is true to life (in that growing older makes us think about things like this) and it is moving because growing older makes me think many of these same things.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the question/answer section dstuva so cogently wrote that the tone of Milton's poem is one of reverence....Indeed, it is; even the reader feels reverence when reading this poem--reverence at the beauty of Milton's language, and a reverent respect for the humility of a young man to realize that he is not mature and concern that he is expected to be a man.  How different so many youth are today in their hedonism and existence in only the present tense.

dixon349 | Student

I read this poem as such; perhaps others will see it differently.

This poem is an imaginative way to describe how a young man feels at 23-years old. He recognizes that he is getting older but he does not feel mature (ripe) inside. Time is flying by and he knows that people expect him to be a man but perhaps he is not ready for that. He writes of his eventual death and meeting his maker (God) in heaven. He acknowledges that time will march on towards death whether or not he is ready for it.

Based on this interpretation, I feel that this poem is true-to-life.