The poet, approaching his seventieth year, wonders whether the "uncertain spectre" of the future will bring him life or death. Will it bring strength or weakness, activity or paralysis? Will it "stir the waters" even yet? Will it leave him "dull . . . and old"? Or will it happily cut off his journey?
This is an almost autobiographical composition. The poet wonders whether his pursuit of the life of the spirit will continue or whether it will end abruptly. The uncertainty involved in the autumn of life is effectively presented.