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Analysis

Time

Symbol Analysis

Time is the primary setting of the poem. This poem does not contain many images for the reader to hold on to, so we have to fasten on to the increasingly fast progression of years. Time either slows down, or speeds up, depending on how you look at it. The poem's big punch line is that all those years add up to 2,400 years, or 100 times 24, the number of hours that have likely passed in reality. But the numbers aren't as important with the linguistic and emotional resonances that Donne gives to each passing period.

  • Line 1: The first line introduces a total contradiction: how could twenty years go by since yesterday? Well, obviously, this can't happen – that's why it's a contradiction.
  • Lines 1-10: It turns out that Donne's sense of time is just a big exaggeration, or hyperbole. This exaggeration is the poem's "metaphysical conceit," which is a way of distorting reality to prove a point. It's also a metaphor for how the speaker feels internally after only a day of not seeing her. He feels like 2,400 years have passed.
  • Line 3: "Forty," "fed," and "favours" all in the same line? Sounds like alliteration to us.
  • Line 5: The speaker metaphorically compares a hundred years to either a person or a candle that is "drown'd" by his tears. The next two hundred years are like a candle that is "blown out" by his sighs.

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