The final three stanzas have an eerie, isolated feel to them and are dedicated to the harsh, instant exit of the soldiers, leaving the wife alone once more and allows the audience to reflect upon the grief and heartache that the mother has had to endure by herself for so long. The end of the poem sees the poet finish with words from the sons, which have a definite sense of regret.
The final stanza leaves a lasting impression on the audience, who become all too aware that, despite the wife’s grief being emphasised throughout, it ends with absolutely no mention of her thoughts or feelings, providing both a cautionary and pessimistic tone, leaving the audience with a bitter sense of finality lingering in their minds. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 is a poem about the cycles of nature: autumn to winter; life to death, and is written to prepare the poet’s friend for the death of his youth and passion, urging his friend to seize the day, instead of watching time pass him by and allowing his youth to slip out of his hands.
However, whilst the poet is trying to warn his friend that life is too short, he is not only trying to prepare his friend for death, but also himself. The personal suffering associated with the ravages of time on both his mental and physical well being is evident throughout the poem, with the poet’s insecurities heightening irrepressibly as he comes to terms with the fact he is approaching the ‘winter’ of his life: illustrated, not only by the language; ‘When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang’, but also by the linear development of the three quatrains.
The first two quatrains establish what the poet thinks his friend sees when he now looks at him, while the third quatrain reveals that in fact the poet is not concerned with the death of his physical entity, but instead with the death of his youth and youthful desires, which consequently means the death of the very things that their relationship were built on. The tone throughout the poem is the melancholia that is experienced when facing one’s own mortality.
The subject of the death of both youth and passion was a popular one in Elizabethan times and is used to great effect, enabling the audience to fully empathise with the poet as some are aware they will have to experience this at some point, whilst others already have. On Monsieur’s Departure is another example of a sonnet which investigates human suffering, in particular, letting go of a loved one. The poem begins with private emotion, ‘I’, in the first quatrain, which then moves to a more public display of emotion.
The whole poem expresses her devastation at being ‘forced’ to end their relationship, demonstrated by the constant paradoxes which work to full effect to reinforce the suffering Elizabeth is experiencing, ‘I love and yet am forced to seem to hate’. Elizabeth’s inner conflict between her heart and her public status is represented through the use of the word ‘prate’, meaning she is inwardly having a conversation.
The audience empathise with her, as it becomes obvious her feelings of love and suffering are inescapable no matter how hard she tries; ‘My care is like my shadow in the sun’. The audience interprets her love as an overwhelming emotion, shown through words such as her ‘burning’ passion, suggesting that she wishes it would go away and, instead, replaced with a more gentle passion.
The poem has a particularly lamenting tone, which is reinforced through the ABCC rhyme scheme: each line is filled with tension, which emphasises her overwhelming sense of loss. The complete devastation and overwhelming passion is something the audience, both at the time and today, can relate to and is conveyed clearly through the idea of a divided self, which runs throughout the poem and develops into a theme. For example, ‘Since from myself another self I turned’ reinforces this theme effectively.