Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 171
Context: This poem has a common theme: the recognition of the passing of time and the transiency of all things. Involved in this theme is a twofold concern: speculation upon fate and memory of the past. The first two verses are concerned with mutability. The poet's attention is upon the lovely aspects of life. "All lovely things will fade and die," he says. Fine ladies and the goldenrod will fade. "The sweetest flesh and flowers are rotten/ And cobwebs tent the brightest head." Youth which is so active and lively now will in time be spent. With a nostalgic pain the poet longs for the past to return. "Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return!" Yet he is painfully aware that the past can never return and that even the present beauties must die. The poem begins with a statement of its theme:
All lovely things will have an ending,
All lovely things will fade and die,
And youth, that's now so bravely spending,
Will beg a penny by and by.
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