The poems “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” by Alan Seeger
and Sonnet 60 by William Shakespeare both share the topic of death. Sonnet 60 presents
a theme of death being inescapable due to the continuing destructiveness of
time. “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” presents a theme of death being welcomed
and not feared despite it being inevitable and unpredictable. William
Shakespeare and Alan Seeger both uses literary devices in their poems to
illustrate their respective themes about death.
In Sonnet 60, William Shakespeare describes the inevitability
of death through the ravages of time. Time is an abstract concept and
Shakespeare uses the concrete image of waves to illustrate it. The simile
associated with waves represents time. The waves and time are similar because
they both are continuous and replace itself consistently. The poet writes that “as
the waves make towards the pebbled shore, / So do our minutes hasten to their
end; / Each changing place with that which goes before (Shakespeare 1-3). This
is significant because the flow of time is being compared to how the waves
replace one another as they hit the shore in a consistent pattern. The waves
keep building only to hit the shoreline and then be replaced by another.
Similarly to the waves, time keeps building and doesn’t stop until death. The
continuing cycle of the waves hitting the shore is able to symbolize the continuity
of time and the inevitability of death.
The details of life being compared to the sun illustrates
the unfairness of time and death. The phrases “main of light” and “crooked
eclipses” implies that life is similar to the sun in the sense that it begins
and ends like the sun rises and falls. The sun gloriously rises where it “crawls
to maturity, wherewith being crown’d” (Shakespeare 6) only to be destroyed by eclipses.
The sun is a metaphor for life. In
reality, Shakespeare is writing that a child is born and matures into adulthood
only to end up dreading it because of their impending death. Shakespeare proceeds
to write that “time that gave, doth now his gift confound” (8). Time has the ability
to both give and take away life. This is significant because it shows the destructiveness
of time. Time is unfair because despite the blessings of life it offers, it
will ultimately end up taking it away. It’s because of this unfairness that
death is inevitable.
In Sonnet 60, William Shakespeare personifies time to
symbolize its destructiveness. Time “delves the parallels in beauty’s brow, / feeds
on the rarities of nature’s truth, / and nothing stands but for his scythe to
mow” (Shakespeare 10-12). This is significant because time is depicted as a
ravaging monster that destroy everything in its path. Because of the personifying
of time, Shakespeare is able to emphasize the point that time is the reason
that death occurs in life. Through the personification of time the reader is
able to better understand and focus on the negative effects of time. Throughout
the poem, Shakespeare progressively shows time as becoming more and more destructive
to where all it leaves in its wake is death. Time is destructive because it is continuous,
a beginning and an end, and unforgiving. It’s because of these ruinous traits
that death is inescapable.