The thoughts offered by Sonnet 60's speaker on the subject of time can be boiled down to two basic points. First: we're all completely at the mercy of time. We are born, we grow, and we ultimately all die, thanks to Time. Second? Time has no pause button. It just keeps on ticking away, no matter how much we could freeze frame any number of moments. Of course, as the speaker reminds us in the final couplet, even though there's no pause button, some things—like poems—are so enduring that they can last through the centuries, as if in slow motion.
Shakespeare uses the word "minutes" instead of "hours" to focus our attention on the little moments of time that pass by without our noticing—but all those moments add up.
Shakespeare personifies Time in the poem because he wants his speaker to have someone to fight against—and you can't exactly fight against an impersonal force.
Not to be a bummer, and not to quote The X-Files or anything, but everything dies. Ain't no gettin' 'round that fact, dear Shmoopers. But do our lives just flow by with no greater destination? Is there anything to look forward to? The first twelve lines of Sonnet 60 seem to say no, but the final couplet offers us a new kind of immortality—through art.
The speaker of the poem doesn't give us any hint that he believes in an afterlife.
The speaker seems to value beauty and youth more than anything. If beauty and youth could last forever, he would be happy.
Most of Sonnet 60 suggests a deep connection between human life and the natural world, what with all its comparisons between human life in the natural world. Life is like waves, no wait, it's like a sun rising and getting eclipsed, no wait it's like vegetation and crops, and… you get the picture. But by the end of the poem, the speaker puts the emphasis on humans making things (like poetry) as a way of separating humans from the natural world, which makes them so subject to the ravages of time.
Shakespeare's poem arguably makes nature look like human life more than it makes human life look like nature. That's the speaker's attempt to make the world more meaningful than it actually is.
By portraying the downfall of the sun as "unnatural," or at least happening according to an extraordinary natural process, the speaker heightens our sense of outrage at the "injustice" of nature.
Sonnet 60 keeps its discussion of art and culture short—the only real clear reference to this theme comes in the last two lines, in the reference to the speaker's "verse." That said, this brief reference says it all. And then some. The speaker presents his work as an artist or craftsman as a way of opposing the destructive forces of nature. So long as his verse remains in existence, he will be able to continue praising his beloved. Even if most of the concrete details of Shakespeare's life remain shrouded in mystery, it is undeniable that some part of him lives on through his work. Now that's art.
The speaker suggests that art can provide some limited consolation for death. But hey, some consolation is better than none at all, right?
The speaker uses literary allusions to signal his disagreement with standard Christian belief. Zing!