Sonnet Vii: How Soon Hath Time, The Subtle Thief Of Youth

  1. Poetry
  2. Poets
  3. John Milton
  4. Sonnet Vii: How Soon Hath Time, The Subtle Thief Of Youth

Reading Time: < 1 minute


How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stoln on his wing my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on wtih full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew’th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arrived so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu’th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure even
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Taskmaster’s eye.

Short Poem Analysis

"Sonnet VII: How Soon Hath Time, The Subtle Thief of Youth" by John Milton is a reflective and introspective poem that explores the passage of time and the inevitability of aging. It is a contemplation on the swift passing of youth and the weight of unfulfilled ambitions.

The poem begins with the speaker lamenting the swift passage of time, personifying it as a "subtle thief" that steals away youth. Milton expresses a sense of surprise at how quickly time has elapsed, emphasizing the fleeting nature of youth and the inevitability of aging.

The speaker reflects on his own life, feeling a sense of regret and impatience for the accomplishments he had hoped to achieve by a certain age. Milton himself wrote this sonnet when he was 23 years old, expressing his frustration at not having achieved great literary feats by that point.

The sonnet follows a traditional Petrarchan structure, with an octave that presents the problem or question and a sestet that provides an answer or resolution. The speaker acknowledges that God has destined him for a specific purpose and that he must patiently wait for the right time to fulfill his potential.

The poem's tone is introspective and contemplative, expressing a mix of frustration at the swift passage of time and a sense of resignation to divine providence. It invites readers to reflect on the passage of time and the way in which individual aspirations and achievements are shaped by the inevitable march of aging.

"Sonnet VII: How Soon Hath Time, The Subtle Thief of Youth" encapsulates the universal experience of grappling with the passage of time and unmet expectations. It reflects on the human condition, the pursuit of personal goals, and the patience required when facing the uncertainties of life.

Previous Poem
Sonnet 20
Next Poem
Sonnet X: Daughter To That Good Earl