How Soon Hath Time by Milton

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,

Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!

My hasting days fly on with full career,

But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.

Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth

That I to manhood am arriv'd so near;

And inward ripeness doth much less appear,

That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,

It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n

To that same lot, however mean or high,

Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n:

All is, if I have grace to use it so,

As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.

An Analysis of the Poem:

How Soon Time Hath is a well-known sonnet by John Milton. John Milton was a profound scholar. When this poet was twenty-three years old, he composed the present poem in 1631. In fact, it is an autobiographical poem. It throws light on the poet's early life.

How Soon Time Hath begins with the personification of 'Time'. This early part of the poem reflects the poet's mood of despair. The poet feels that time is fleeting fast. Twenty-three years of his short life have passed without any great achievement. This feeling makes the poet sad. It is the pessimistic attitude. He laments his own inability. The lack of the mental and inward ripeness is the root cause of poet's grief.

When John Milton was eighteen years old, his first poem was published. In a little span of time he composed many beautiful poems. They anticipate a great future but they do not show the inward ripeness. The poet has gained physical maturity but he has not gained mental maturity. It makes the poet sad.

The concluding part of the poem is full of optimistic tone. The poem begins with doubt. The poet laments his inability. But it ends with faith and optimism. The mood of regret is over. The poet thinks that the time has stolen twenty-three years from him but not in vein. He believes in God. Thus it will offer him ripeness.

In the present poem Milton has used Petrarchan form of the sonnet. It is divided into two parts -- Octave and sestette. The rhyme scheme is abba, abba, cde, dce. In short, 'How Soon Time Hath' expresses two different moods of the poet. In the beginning it shows the mood of despondency and at the end the mood of a firm resolution.


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