Summary of How Soon Hath Time
It is, generally, believed that the Sonnet – “How Soon Hath Time” was composed on 9th December, 1631, on the occasion of Poet John Milton’s twenty third birth anniversary. In this sonnet, John Milton expresses his dissatisfaction that Time is passing very swiftly and he has not been able to make any significant achievement in his life and career so far. He feels that although he has been endowed with the gift of writing poetry by the God, yet he has, so far, not been able to make use of the gift or talent conferred upon him by the Almighty and admits that Time is moving so speedily that he is unable to keep in pace with it. So, he expresses his discontent on the present status of his life and feels disgusted. He thinks that his youth is slipping away very swiftly without adding any significant achievement to his credit.
He personifies Time as a winged-thief and says that the Time has stolen his youth away and carried it on his wings before he could accomplish greatness as a poet. He seems much concerned about his career and future, but he also has a strong belief that although he has not been able to achieve greatness and recognition as a poet so far, yet he will definitely accomplish the greatness with the help of the talent conferred upon him by the God and feels that in due course of time everything will take place as per the will of the God and he will be able to mould his career accordingly, for he strongly believes that he is destined to be a great poet. He also feels annoyed by the fact that despite completing twenty-three years of his life,
his physical or outward appearance does not show any sign of maturity and he looks much younger than his actual age. Here, it is worth-noting that while studying at Cambridge, owing to his long hair and distinct mannerism, Milton was known as the “Lady of the Christ’s”. Milton has this very fact in his mind when he feels that his appearance does not show any signs of maturity though he has reached very near to manhood. Milton is confident that he will definitely attain greatness, as he feels that it is the will of the God and he will certainly become a great poet sooner or later. Milton’s unflinching faith in God is apparent in the Sonnet.
In the last line, reference to a parable from the Bible (Matthew: 20, 1-16) is apparent, according to which, some labourers come to labour in the field. Some of them come early, and some come late, but they all are paid the same wages. The labourers coming early complain about this practice, the taskmaster explains that “the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen”.
John Milton is confident that despite the fact that he has spent twenty three years of his life without making any significant growth in his career, he will certainly attain greatness as per the will of the God, for according to the Parable mentioned above, those who start working late are also paid the same wages the early-starters get.