Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sonnet 55

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn:

The living record of your memory.

'Gainst death, and all-oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room,

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So till the judgment that your self arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

Talking directly to his beloved, the speaker begins with some confident words of assurance: no other memorials, however beautiful or permanent, can outdo this sonnet, which will live longer and shine brighter. Other human creations have to deal with time and violent war, but this poem escapes both of these downers.

And because this poem is a poem of praise, preserving the memory of the beloved's beauty and all-round awesomeness, there's good news: the beloved will also escape destruction. In fact, he will live comfortably inside the sonnet and the minds of readers until the end of the world itself. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What always make me so sad on reading this and the other sonnets (such as "Shall I compare thee") addressed to "the master-mistress of my passion" is that, since we don't know who he was (despite the dedication, and despite the assertions of writers such as A. L. Rowse), the promise of eternal life due to the poetry is made pointless by the anonymity of the individual. R