This sonnet is by far one of the most interesting poems in the book. Of
Shakespeare’s sonnets in the text, this is one of the most moving lyric poems
that I have ever read. There is great use of imagery within the sonnet.
not to say that the rest of the poems in the book were not good, but this to me
was the best, most interesting, and most beautiful of them. It is mainly due to
the simplicity and loveliness of the poem’s praise of the beloved woman that
it has guaranteed its place in my mind, and heart.The speaker of the poem opens
with a question that is addressed to the beloved, “Shall I compare thee to
a summer’s day?” This question is comparing her to the summer time of the
year. It is during this time when the flowers are blooming, trees are full of
leaves, the weather is warm, and it is generally thought of as an enjoyable time
during the year.
The following eleven lines in the poem are also dedicated to
similar comparisons between the beloved and summer days. In lines 2 and 3, the
speaker explains what mainly separates the young woman from the summer’s day:
she is “more lovely and more temperate.” (Line 2) Summer’s days tend
toward extremes: they are sometimes shaken by “rough winds” (line3)
which happens and is not always as welcoming as the woman. However in line 4,
the speaker gives the feeling again that the summer months are often to short by
saying, “And summer’s lease hath too short a date.
” In the summer
days, the sun, “the eye of heaven” (line 5), often shines “too
hot,” or too dim, “his gold complexion dimmed” (line 6), that is
there are many hot days during the summer but soon the sun begins to set earlier
at night because autumn is approaching. Summer is moving along too quickly for
the speaker, its time here needs to be longer, and it also means that the
chilling of autumn is coming upon us because the flowers will soon be withering,
as “every fair from fair sometime declines.” (Line 7) The final
portion of the sonnet tells how the beloved differs from the summer in various
respects. Her beauty will be one that lasts forever, “Thy eternal summer
shall not fade.
” (Line 9), and never end or die. In the couplet at the
bottom, the speaker explains how that the beloved’s beauty will accomplish this
everlasting life unlike a summer. And it is because her beauty is kept alive in
this poem, which will last forever. It will live “as long as men can
breathe or eyes can see.
” (Line 13)On the surface, the poem is on the
surface simply a statement of praise about the beauty of the beloved woman and
perhaps summer to the speaker is sometimes too unpleasant with the extremes of
windiness and heat that go along with it. However, the beloved in the poem is
always mild and temperate by her nature and nothing at all like the summer. It
is incidentally brought to life as being described as the “eye of
heaven” with its “gold complexion”. The imagery throughout the
sonnet is simple and attainable to the reader, which is a key factor in
understanding the poem.
Then the speaker begins to describe the summer again
with the “darling buds of May” giving way to the ” summer’s
lease”, springtime moving into the warmth of the summer. The speaker then
starts to promise to talk about this beloved, that is so great and awing that
she is to live forever in this sonnet. The beloved is so great that the speaker
will even go as far as to say that, “So long as men breathe, or eyes can
see,” the woman will live. The language is almost too simple when comparing
it to the rest of Shakespeare’s sonnets; it is not heavy with alliteration or
verse, and nearly every line is its own self-contained clause, almost every line
ends with some punctuation that effects a pause.
But it is this that makes
Sonnet18 stand out for the rest in the book. It is much more attainable to
understand and it allows for the reader to fully understand how great this
beloved truly is because she may live forever in it. An important theme of the
sonnet, as it is an important theme throughout much of the poetry in general, is
the power of the speaker’s poem to defy time and last forever. And so by doing
this it is then carrying the beauty of the beloved down to future generations
and eventually for al of eternity.
The beloved’s “eternal summer”
shall not fade precisely because it is embodied in the sonnet: “So long as
men can breathe or eyes can see,” (line 13) the speaker writes in the
couplet, “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”(Line 14)
With this the speaker is able to accomplish what many have done in poetry and
that is to give the gift of an eternal life to someone that they believe is
special and outshines everyone else around them. Perhaps it is because of a
physical beauty that the speaker see, but I believe that it is more because of
the internal beauty as seen in line 2, “Thou art more lovely and more
temperate”, that the beloved is deserving to live on forever.