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The Passage of Time

Symbol Analysis

If each stanza takes place during a different season and the whole poem is a meditation on death, you better believe that the passage of time is an important category here. Even the title of the poem plays with the idea of time: "Afterwards?" After…what? When? Check out the "What's Up with the Title?" section of this module, and then come back for more examples of symbols, imagery, and wordplay having to do with the passage of time.

  • Line 1: The "Present" moment of time is personified in the very first line – the "Present" is kind of like the grim reaper. It's the guy who shuts the door on the speaker's life.
  • Line 1: "Postern" could also be read as a pun on the word "posterity," which means the future generations that live after you.
  • Line 15: The "bell of quittance," or the church bell that gets rung when a person dies, is actually the same bell that gets rung in the church tower every hour, anyway, so the ringing of the "bell of quittance," which marks the passing of a person's life, could just sound like the bell marking the passage of another hour.

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