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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 97: ‘How like a winter hath my absence been’

A commentary on Shakespeare’s 97th sonnet

Sonnet 97 has a famous opening line, but the rest of the poem remains less famous. Yet the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Don Paterson have both expressed admiration for it, so the sonnet is worth closer analysis and explication. Before we proceed to a few words of commentary on Sonnet 97, here’s a reminder of the poem.

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time removed was summer’s time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seemed to me
But hope of orphans, and unfathered fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute: Read the rest of this entry

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