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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 64: ‘When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced’

A reading of a classic Shakespeare sonnet

‘When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced’ is one of the more famous sonnets by Shakespeare, and, like Sonnet 60, has a fairly straightforward sentiment at its heart. Also, like Sonnet 60, it is a meditation on the destructive power of Time, which is personified with a capital T once again.

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

We’ve enjoyed analysing these sonnets from the middle stretch of Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence, and Sonnet 64 is another gem. In paraphrase, the meaning of the sonnet can be summarised as follows: ‘When I see time destroy those monuments and buildings which I thought would stand forever, when I watch the tide come in and swallow up the shore, when I observe whole kingdoms change in the way they are governed, all of this destruction has taught me to reflect that time will also take the one I love. Such a thought is like suffering a death, and I cannot help weeping to possess someone whom I know I must, in the end, lose.’ Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60: ‘Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore’

A reading of a classic Shakespeare sonnet

Widely regarded as one of the finest of all the Sonnets, Sonnet 60, beginning ‘Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, / So do our minutes hasten to their end’, is a meditation on mortality, with Shakespeare once again proposing that his poetry about the Fair Youth will secure the young man’s immortality. The language and imagery, which lend themselves to close analysis in particular here, are triumphs.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ’gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55: ‘Not marble, nor the gilded monuments’

A reading of a classic Shakespeare sonnet

‘Not marble, nor the gilded monuments’ is one of the more famous poems in Shakespeare’s sequence of 154 sonnets. The poem is a version of the popular conceit that the poet’s words can make his lover immortal through ‘rhyme’. As commentators are quick to point out, the Bard failed in one sense, in that we cannot say for certain what the name of the addressee of the poem was (the Earl of Pembroke? or the Earl of Southampton?). But the poem is a fine example of the English sonnet, and so repays closer analysis.

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, besmear’d 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 yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes. Read the rest of this entry