On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three

On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three Summary

John Milton


(Poetry for Students)

Lines 1–2
These lines introduce the poem’s theme and create a metaphor of Time as a bird flying away with (“stol’n on his wing”) Milton’s youth.

Line 3
Here, the poet expresses his sense of how quickly time passes: “hasting days” and “full career.”

Line 4
The poet here uses a seasonal metaphor to express that his time of life is a “late spring” but that so far, it has not shown any “bud or blossom,” in other words any promise of fruit or achievements in his life.

Lines 5–6
The poet remarks that he does not seem as old as he is (his look “deceive[s]” the truth that he is practically a man).

Lines 7–8
“Inward ripeness” continues the natural metaphor of “bud” and “blossom” in line 4; the poet has more maturity or ripeness inside than he shows outside, and more than some other young people, the “more timely-happy spirits” have. But, note the various possibilities in the word “endur’th.” The lines are grammatically inverted and could be paraphrased, “and inward ripeness, that imbues / clothes some others, appears less in me.” The phrase “timely-happy spirits” can be understood to refer to those who are more comfortable with their age or whose age reflects more happily their inner being.

Lines 9–12
“It” may refer to the appearance of inward ripeness of line 7;...

(The entire section is 391 words.)