What is the atmosphere of the sonnet "How Soon Hath Time" by John Milton?also what describes the sounds of the words, like is it soft harsh, musical etc  ? How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of...

What is the atmosphere of the sonnet "How Soon Hath Time" by John Milton?

also what describes the sounds of the words, like is it soft harsh, musical etc  ?

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stoln on his wing my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on wtih full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arrived so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure even
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye.

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

The atmosphere of this sonnet is somewhat melancholic. The author is pondering the fading of his youth. It is introspective and the tone, I would say, is soft. It does have hope, however, because in the end, he is hoping that he will make good use of the time he has while he is still on earth, "God willing."

The speaker admits that his youth is slipping away. He is growing old not so much on outside but more on the inside (“my semblance might deceive the truth”). He may look young on the outside, but inside him exists an old soul. He seems to be lamenting the power that “Time” has over him. He refers to “Time” as a “subtle thief” – personifying it throughout the sonnet. He comes to the realization, however, that Time is going to do what it will do and that he is no different than anyone else.

When the tone of the poem changes in this line:

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow

the author concludes that no matter how soon or slow Time affects him, in the meantime, he will try to do God’s will (the great Task-Master). In the last lines, he acknowledges that Time may have power over him, but not outside of God’s control. Even Time is subject to the will of heaven.

Read about Milton here on enotes.

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