Sonnet XVIII

by William Shakespeare

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 dimm’d,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d:
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.

This is certainly one of  Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets, justifiably so. The first line of the poem tells us what it will be about, comparing the young man to a summer day, but immediately the poet realizes that the comparison will be inadequate, that the youth is so much “more lovely and more temperate.”  Summer can be windy or too hot or dark and gray, while he is always beautiful, calm and controlled. And summer will end, the year will turn cool and the leaves will fall from the trees, but the man’s youth and beauty are preserved forever in the poet’s lines. That last bit would make Shakespeare sound a little cocky, believing his poetry will live on forever, but he’s right, we still read and teach and love his works.

I read this in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Category: Classics- Poetry

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First published in 1609

Book source: Free for Kindle

Shakespeare Reading Month is hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.