How we cite our quotes:
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end,
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend. (1-4)
Even though it appears to be talking mainly about time, there are already hints of death in the first quatrain of Shakespeare's poem. The most obvious hint comes in the use of the word "end" in Line 2, but we think that there might be another, earlier hint, in the use of the phrase "pebbled shore." Doesn't the idea of this final destination filled with stones make you think of a graveyard? Or is Shmoop just being morbid?
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crookèd eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And time that gave doth now his gift confound. (5-8)
Here, Shakespeare portrays death using tragic irony—because it strikes at exactly the moment when we feel most powerful, when we have "crawl[ed]" our way from "Nativity" up to "maturity." Bummer. The indignity of all this is brought home by the fact that the sun is blotted out by "eclipses" instead of simply setting, like it normally does. That ain't no way to go.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow, (9-10)
In these lines, Shakespeare uses some especially harsh language and vivid imagery to convey just how much of a Bad Guy time really is. This amps up the emotion and gives us a stronger sense of how angry and despairing the speaker is.