Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day,
- Does this line remind you of anything? That's right: this line recalls the very beginning of the poem.
- So line 5 is a lot like line 1. In both of them the speaker is talking to some "thou" person; in both of them, the speaker tells this person that he (or she) can "behold" or "see" something "in" him. Only now the speaker is comparing himself to a time of the day, instead of a time of the year.
- But, "Such day"? What does he mean, such day? Once again, the poet sneakily doesn't give us all the information we need, thus forcing us to read on to the next line. He's a clever one, that Shakespeare, and he's a master of enjambment.
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
- Ah, now we see what kind of day the speaker means. That said, the word order here can be a little bit tricky.
- Just to be sure we're on the same page here, let's rearrange this line (and the end of the previous line) as follows: "the twilight of such day as fadeth in the west after sunset." Putting the words in this order lets you see more clearly what Shakespeare means: the last bit of day that is fading after the sun has already set.
- Based on what we've read of the poem so far, do you have any guesses about what stage of life this is a metaphor for? Yes? Good. Let's keep reading to see if you're right.
Which by and by black night doth take away,
- We're sure you got the general gist of what's going on here during your first read-through of the poem. That said, once you actually take a close look at what's going on, the grammar can be a bit tricky.
- Just so that we're on the same page: the word "Which" at the beginning of this line refers back to the "twilight of such day" we learned about back in line 5.
- Line 6, of course, told us more about the kind of day he was talking about.
- What new, meaningful information does line 7 add to what we already know about this fading day? We think it's basically a change of focus. From the previous two lines, we know that the sun has already set, but that a glow still remains on the horizon. Now, line 7 shows us the inevitable flipside of that image: if daylight is fading, that means "black night" is increasing and taking away the day.
- Now we get to ask you the same question we asked for the previous line: is this all a metaphor? And, if so, what's it a metaphor for? Just so you know, your time for guessing might be running out—not too give too much away, but our man Shakespeare might well end up spilling the beans all by himself…
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
- There you have it, folks. Just in case we really couldn't figure it out, Shakespeare tells us: the "black night" that takes away the day is the "second self"—a.k.a. the alter ego, the double, the brother from another mother—of Death itself… Ooga booga booga!
- Once the beginning of line 8 reveals that quatrain 2 is all a big metaphor for aging and death, it becomes easy to see how the end of the line contains a double meaning, so that the word "rest" means both the sleep that comes at the end of each day, and the metaphorical rest of death, that comes at the end of a person's life.
- Finally, at the end of this quatrain, we can safely say we've got a new addition to our rhyme scheme. "Day" rhymes with "away" and "west" rhymes with "rest," but none of those guys rhyme with any of the words from quatrain 1. So we've got ABAB CDCD. Nifty, no?