Clocks in Folklore and poems

Clocks in Folklore and poems

Clocks have played a major role in the minds, imaginations, and stories of mankind for as long as they have been built.  Have you ever wondered why that is? What is it about clocks that have inspired us for so long? Is it the fact that they count the passage of time, an indicator of mortality that reminds all of us that whether or not we choose to accept it, we have an expiration date.  On a less somber note, time and dates also mark important events in our lives, and in history, and clocks once again, help us to track the passage of each day.  Perhaps it has something to do with the sense of history that we feel when we gaze upon an antique clock and marvel at how something so intricate and precise could have been built so long ago using methods and tools that are primitive by today’s standards.

Clocks Inspire Imagination and Creativity

The human imagination is an incredible thing, all you need to do for proof of that is to look at all of the things that mankind has dreamed of.  From ancient mythology, to modern books, poetry, and movies, the human mind is capable of creating some amazing things, and in many cases there are common themes and symbols that pop up regularly in these creations.  It shouldn’t be surprising that clocks and time are a constant source of symbolism in creative works given the important role that time plays in all our lives.

Why Clocks Are Such Powerful Symbols

Clocks represent time, and time has both positive and negative connotations, depending upon your circumstances.  As a young person time probably seems as if it will never catch up to you, that you have all the time in the world.  But, as time passes, on you realize that your existence is fleeting, time can become more of an antagonistic force, making you realize that you won’t live forever, and that you need to take advantage of what time you have left.  This is why time and clocks hold a special place in the imagination of us all, and why works of literature and art focusing on them are so compelling.

Examples of Clocks Used as Symbols

In “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell time is used in a negative way as the narrators of the poem tries to urge his mistress to accelerate their courtship.  In the poem a lover is resistant to the advances of the narrator, and his frustration grows.  He explains to her that if he had all the time in the world he would be patient, but he doesn’t.  He recognizes the fleeting nature of life and urges her to embrace him quickly before they lose any more time.

Had we but world enough and time,

This coyness, lady, were no crime.

We would sit down, and think which way

To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side

Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide

Of Humber would complain. I would

Love you ten years before the flood,


In, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, but Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the narrator uses contrasting imagery of Christmas, a joyous occasion, and the terrible war that was gripping the country.  This was written during the Civil War where the author’s son was wounded in battle.  The symbolism of bells and chiming and allusions to different time periods invoke imagery of a clock, in this case it’s not necessarily negative, but it does hold hope that happier times can replace the dark days that the author is currently living in.

Antique Clocks Were Works of Art Worthy of the Tales They Inspired

Compared with modern time pieces, antique clocks are as different from them as night is from day.  Antique clocks have age and beauty to them that almost makes them feel alive, making them far more than simple clocks.  When you stare at them and marvel at their design you can almost feel the history of each clock and the time, care, and effort that went into its creation.  Depending on circumstances time can mean feeling hopeful for the future, or it can indicate regret over the past and over opportunities that have been lost.  As you sit in your home, and gaze upon the antique clock before you it’s hard to not be mesmerized as you watch the rhythmic movement of the hands on the clock marking the passage of a constant that holds sway over us all.