Sonnet 97, “Falling out of Love” by William Shakespeare, the speaker is talking about lost love and separation. The poem starts by saying, “How like a winter hath my absence been,” with winter used as a metaphor illustrating the dark winter soul but also managing to use imagery of winter in order to enhance the meaning (Saunders 2013). Absence, on the other hand, is used to mean a period of separation from the speaker’s fault for not being around. He has been forced to endure separation from his love, which he compares to winter that comes once in a year. The second quatrain the speaker portrays is the late summer and early autumn weather, when nature is supposed to be bearing fruits that bloomed in the summer. The third quatrain dismisses the richness of summer and autumn when he says ‘wanton burthen of the prime’, which he mentions is unreal just as the dreams of an orphan. He further says this could not have been fathered by summer considering that, ‘summer, and his beloved pleasures’ are supposed to wait on the beloved. When the beloved is gone, even birds are not singing. Literally, this does not mean that birds are not singing. Rather, the speaker cannot hear them in his emotional pain of separation from his beloved one. The couplet finally clarifies on this point when he says, “Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,” and finally concludes by saying, “That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near,” signifying the time he is usually separated from his loved one although winter is not near yet. This is because everything seems dull and like winter when he is usually separated from his loved one (Saunders 2013).
The poem takes the sonnet form that is fourteen-line long lyric poem. Tradition it was written in iambic parameter with every second syllable having a falling accent. In this sonnet, as well as other Shakespearian sonnets, the form utilized is divided into four parts with the first four being called quatrains each with four lines, hence the name. The lines are rhymed with ABAB. The first line is A, followed by B then A and B again. The fourth part is known as a couplet that is rhymed with CC. This form has mainly been used to develop the sequence of metaphor that is present in the poem especially in the first quatrain. The first quatrain uses the metaphor with imagery of the winter and December bareness (Saunders 2013). The second and third quatrains also develop metaphors and imagery while the couplet takes on the rhyme of CC and finishes with a summary of the metaphors presented in the three parts. Although the seasons might have their pleasantries, the speaker has none without his beloved woman.
In the poem, the speaker uses a lot of imagery to create images of the situation in the readers mind. Most of the images in this poem are related to weather seasons used in the metaphor. For instance, he uses weather and seasons to relate to the young man’s absence to freezing days of December as well as the promise of reuniting to a pregnant spring. The weather seasons are described with visual images such as fruit bearing, bareness of December and pale looking leaves (Saunders 2013). This produces images in the readers mind, thereby creating imagery to further drive points home. The aim of this imagery is to personify the feelings and characters of the speaker especially the way he comes and goes, leaving his beloved one unattended. He came to his beloved one like a season comes within a specific time of the year.
This sonnet focuses on the theme of love. Most of Shakespeare sonnets are focused around the theme of love and romance. In this poem specifically, the theme focuses on the pains of love. It portrays two sides of love. When a person is in love, it is a pleasurable moment to cherish. During a separation, one only wishes to be reunited with their beloved one just as the speaker of this sonnet. The theme depicts the painful emotional part of losing a loved one or being separated from a loved one. Although we expect to see a reunion, there is no reunion in this sonnet. This hurts, especially when it is a young person, which we know from the other two sonnets related to this one. When he is compared to springtime in line 4, a paradox is established line five. The speaker has been separated like winter from his loved one, but it is summer. A further turning point is achieved in line nine where the speaker says, ‘autumn with big increase,’ which literally means a harvest time when people get things in abundance, is described in a way that depicts emptiness. We learn that this is what everything looks like to a young man separated from his lover (Saunders 2013).
The motif of time is portrayed in this sonnet where the speaker uses seasons of the year. Different times depict different activities as well as times to fall in love. Further, this motif shows that time can kill everything including love. It is in time that all things end just as the young man fell out of love in time. In a large part, he is to blame for the many times that he was away from his loved one. We learn that the young man’s love fades with time. Everything happens in time and ends in time. Although love my take long to heal, time heals it little by little. It is also with time that the young man had fallen in love. Therefore, everything has to happen within time just as it ends in time.
In conclusion, sonnet 97 makes use of imagery to create an image of the situation the speaker is in after being separated from his loved one. It portrays love as something that is both pleasurable but also causes emotional pain. The speaker id distanced from reality, and all seasons seem like winter, a time during which he is separated from his loved one. This is because he has lost his loved one and longs for the beloved to come back.
Saunders, Austen. Falling out of love, William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 97 – discovering poetry. spectator.co.uk, April 15, 2013. Web. June 19, 2013.
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