Poems About Time

hourglassTime is a subject that has fascinated people of all walks of life. Different cultures have different thoughts about time. In much of the Eastern world, time is looked upon as being a cycle. As one goes through various stages of life, the eventually return to their beginning. This idea is readily visible in nature, as we see the changes in the seasons, accompanied by changes in plants and animals. It would only seem reasonable that people would adopt a similar view of their own life, which reflects their ideas regarding time. Poems about time should also reflect this concept of a circular, repeating pattern of events.

One poet who comes immediately to mind was the well respected and often quoted Chinese poet, Li Po. Some know him better as Li Bai. Both names are usually accepted in discussions regarding this venerated Chinese poet, however I will continue to use Li Po here in this discussion. He spent much of his life as a poet and as a Taoist student and teacher. He was often sought after by various government leaders, and especially by emperors and their courts. His perceptions on life and on the interactions between people, nature and the universe were considered fascinating and full of wisdom. He was also respected and found favor with the common people with whom he came into contact with. One of the names given to him by the poet and Taoist He ZhiZhang was “Immortal Who Was Exiled From Heaven”. Regarding time, Li Po was a traditionalist, as seen in these few poems about the seasons.

by Li Po

by Li Po

by Li Po

The other perception of time, which is more common in Western thought, is that time is linear — that it moves from one point to another along a finite line. Unlike Eastern beliefs, which included such things as reincarnation and an eternal repeating of life, Western ideals on time indicate that it has a specific beginning and a specific ending. Of course, who better to tell about time in the Western world than the equally respected and renowned poet, Sir William Shakespeare. Much like Li Po, Shakespreare was highly regarded in his day, although he was not elevated to his current status until some time after his passing. Shakespeare’s works have been used throughout schools and universities as a standard upon which to evaluate all other poetry, and so it is no surprise that he would also have some influence on thoughts about time, life and death, which all go hand in hand. A perfect example of this sort of discussion is found in some of his many sonnets. One in particular is this interesting example.

Sonnet 12: When I do count the clock that tells the time
by William Shakespeare

Regardless of whether you maintain a Western or Eastern perspective on time, the idea of using poetry to express ones understandings of time is a universal idea. It is through poetry that one can help others learn about time, life and how to live a fulfilling life.

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