Time. Although Time is not a place, it can be seen as a dimension of all life, and for Sitwell it is also a symbol of destruction and decay. For example, for Athens’s Parthenon—mentioned in her poem’s opening line—Time is the destroyer that extinguishes beauty and life, leaving ruins, skeletons, and rags.
Death. In contrast to Time, Death is a place of rest and respite from the ravages of Time. In keeping with the theme of metamorphosis, Time is like a caterpillar and Death is like a cocoon. The grave then becomes a welcome home for those wearied by the trials of life only because Death marks the end of Time.
Sun. Often paralleled with Death in this poem, the Sun burns away the body but also illuminates the beauty of what remains of life, like gems among the bones. Sitwell completes her poem by referring to the conquering of Death by Christ, punning on the word “Sun” and “Son” of God. Christ the Sun brings a new spring that melts away the ice of Death and the crusts of Time. The final transformation is through the fire of spring, an eternal state of life beyond Death and Time.
*Ethiopia. Modern country in Northeast Africa; also, biblical name for tropical Africa. In comparing Death and the Sun, Sitwell often alludes to “Ethiopia,” which is perhaps best understood here in its biblical sense as a broad name for tropical Africa, as a place of the hot Sun and of beauty. Since the modern nation of Ethiopia is also a home of the early Christian church, references to Ethiopia anticipate those to Heavenly Love or Christ, who is finally connected with the metamorphosis beyond death.