From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


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.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...