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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

There are not characters in this poem that exist in the same way that characters exist in some narrative poetry or in fiction. There is no plot with rising action, climax, or falling action, in which such characters might be given a chance to develop and change. We can count the speaker, or narrator, of the poem as a character or persona of the author; it is risky to assume that this speaker is the author himself. When we make the assumption that the speaker of a poem is the author of the poem, we can miss crucial clues about the real speaker that lead to the poem's meaning or purpose, and this can lead us to make other assumptions about the speaker or poem that may not actually be supported by the poem's content. In general, then, it is safest to assume that the speaker of the poem is more like a character than the author himself (though there are, of course, exceptions). This particular speaker seems to be somewhere past the middle age of life, as symbolized by the autumnal setting of the poem. Spring and summer often stand in for youth and middle age, while fall represents the time after middle age but before old age and death, often represented by winter. This speaker is looking back on his life, on "days that are no more" and lamenting that they are gone and cannot return. He eventually describes them as a "Death in Life" because of how irretrievably gone, how sad and strange, they are.

The speaker describes these days as being fresh like the sun on the sail of a boat that "brings our friends up from the underworld" or sad as the sun on the sail of a boat that "sinks with all we love below the verge," taking a loved one down into Hades. The speaker also describes a dying person who is affected, sadly and strangely, by the sound of the birds singing in the morning or the appearance of the sun's light through his window. Further, the speaker describes the bygone days like the "remember'd kisses" of a loved one who has died or a beloved who actually loves another. These descriptions are the closest the poem comes to offering other characters.

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