Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
--William Shakespeare

Here's a famous sonnet by Shakespeare. I'm not going to comment on the sentiment in this one (that she's too perfect to grow old or even die) except to say that it's the sort of ridiculous gallantry that makes romantic women swoon. I do like the way the first part can be read both literally and metaphorically. On one hand, he's listing the things about a summer's day that don't fit the analogy he wants to paint. On the other hand, those things could fit very well into a poem about a lady who is beautiful but a bit capricious.

Since you can easily imagine rough words, a short infatuation, passion that burns too hot, occasional unexplained coldness, and eventual loss of beauty coming from any normal human being, the fact that he thinks these are inappropriate puts this particular lady on a pedestal.

1 comment:

  1. I was taught that the last two lines of the poem explain how she(/he) will retain her(/his) beauty: as long as people live to read the poem ("this"), the poem will eternally capture her(/him) in that moment.