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Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day? - Poem 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 dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest 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.


Comments about Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day? by William Shakespeare

  • Gold Star - 95,915 Points Fabrizio Frosini (2/6/2016 1:09:00 PM)

    This is one of the most famous of all the sonnets, justifiably so. But it would be a mistake to take it entirely in isolation, for it links in with so many of the other sonnets through the themes of the descriptive power of verse; the ability of the poet to depict the fair youth adequately, or not; and the immortality conveyed through being hymned in these 'eternal lines'. It is noticeable that here the poet is full of confidence that his verse will live as long as there are people drawing breath upon the earth, whereas later he apologises for his poor wit and his humble lines which are inadequate to encompass all the youth's excellence. Now, perhaps in the early days of his love, there is no such self-doubt and the eternal summer of the youth is preserved forever in the poet's lines. The poem also works at a rather curious level of achieving its objective through dispraise. The summer's day is found to be lacking in so many respects (too short, too hot, too rough, sometimes too dingy) , but curiously enough one is left with the abiding impression that 'the lovely boy' is in fact like a summer's day at its best, fair, warm, sunny, temperate, one of the darling buds of May, and that all his beauty has been wonderfully highlighted by the comparison.
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  • Gold Star - 95,915 Points Fabrizio Frosini (2/6/2016 1:08:00 PM)

    1. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    This is taken usually to mean 'What if I were to compare thee etc? ' The stock comparisons of the loved one to all the beauteous things in nature hover in the background throughout. One also remembers Wordsworth's lines:
    We'll talk of sunshine and of song,
    And summer days when we were young,
    Sweet childish days which were as long
    As twenty days are now.
    Such reminiscences are indeed anachronistic, but with the recurrence of words such as 'summer', 'days', 'song', 'sweet', it is not difficult to see the permeating influence of the Sonnets on Wordsworth's verse.
    2. Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
    The youth's beauty is more perfect than the beauty of a summer day. more temperate - more gentle, more restrained, whereas the summer's day might have violent excesses in store, such as are about to be described.
    3. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    May was a summer month in Shakespeare's time, because the calendar in use lagged behind the true sidereal calendar by at least a fortnight.
    darling buds of May - the beautiful, much loved buds of the early summer; favourite flowers.
    4. And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
    Legal terminology. The summer holds a lease on part of the year, but the lease is too short, and has an early termination (date) .

    5. Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    Sometime = on occasion, sometimes;
    the eye of heaven = the sun.
    6. And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
    his gold complexion = his (the sun's) golden face. It would be dimmed by clouds and on overcast days generally.
    7. And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    All beautiful things (every fair) occasionally become inferior in comparison with their essential previous state of beauty (from fair) . They all decline from perfection.

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  • Gold Star - 95,915 Points Fabrizio Frosini (2/6/2016 1:08:00 PM)

    8. By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
    By chance accidents, or by the fluctuating tides of nature, which are not subject to control, nature's changing course untrimmed.
    untrimmed - this can refer to the ballast (trimming) on a ship which keeps it stable; or to a lack of ornament and decoration. The greater difficulty however is to decide which noun this adjectival participle should modify. Does it refer to nature, or chance, or every fair in the line above, or to the effect of nature's changing course? KDJ adds a comma after course, which probably has the effect of directing the word towards all possible antecedents. She points out that nature's changing course could refer to women's monthly courses, or menstruation, in which case every fair in the previous line would refer to every fair woman, with the implication that the youth is free of this cyclical curse, and is therefore more perfect.
    9. But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
    Referring forwards to the eternity promised by the ever living poet in the next few lines, through his verse.
    10. Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
    Nor shall it (your eternal summer) lose its hold on that beauty which you so richly possess. ow'st = ownest, possess.
    By metonymy we understand 'nor shall you lose any of your beauty'.
    11. Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
    Several half echoes here. The biblical ones are probably 'Oh death where is thy sting? Or grave thy victory? ' implying that death normally boasts of his conquests over life. And Psalms 23.3.: 'Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil ' In classical literature the shades flitted helplessly in the underworld like gibbering ghosts. Shakespeare would have been familiar with this through Virgil's account of Aeneas' descent into the underworld in Aeneid Bk. VI.
    12. When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
    in eternal lines = in the undying lines of my verse. Perhaps with a reference to progeny, and lines of descent, but it seems that the procreation theme has already been abandoned.
    to time thou grow'st - you keep pace with time, you grow as time grows.
    13. So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    For as long as humans live and breathe upon the earth, for as long as there are seeing eyes on the eart.
    14. So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
    That is how long these verses will live, celebrating you, and continually renewing your life. But one is left with a slight residual feeling that perhaps the youth's beauty will last no longer than a summer's day, despite the poet's proud boast.

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Poems About Summer

  1. 1. Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee To A Sum.. , William Shakespeare
  2. 2. Exhortation: Summer 1919 , Claude McKay
  3. 3. A Summer Day , Lucy Maud Montgomery
  4. 4. Summer , Alexander Pope
  5. 5. To Summer , William Blake
  6. 6. Summer Stars , Carl Sandburg
  7. 7. Summer Sun , Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. 8. Summer Morn In New Hampshire , Claude McKay
  9. 9. Indian Summer , Henry Van Dyke
  10. 10. Bed In Summer , Robert Louis Stevenson
  11. 11. Summer , John Clare
  12. 12. St. Martin's Summer , Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. 13. A Summer Evening Churchyard, Lechlade, G.. , Percy Bysshe Shelley
  14. 14. A Man Young And Old: Viii. Summer And Sp.. , William Butler Yeats
  15. 15. Written On A Summer Evening , John Keats
  16. 16. Midsummer, Tobago , Derek Walcott
  17. 17. Summer In The South , Paul Laurence Dunbar
  18. 18. The Summer I Was Sixteen , Geraldine Connolly
  19. 19. Before Summer Rain , Rainer Maria Rilke
  20. 20. I See The Boys Of Summer , Dylan Thomas
  21. 21. A Night-Rain In Summer , James Henry Leigh Hunt
  22. 22. My Mother On An Evening In Late Summer , Mark Strand
  23. 23. Between The Dusk Of A Summer Night , William Ernest Henley
  24. 24. On The Idle Hill Of Summer , Alfred Edward Housman
  25. 25. In Spring And Summer Winds May Blow , Walter Savage Landor
  26. 26. Farm Boy After Summer , Robert Francis
  27. 27. Portrait Number Five: Against A New York.. , Jack Gilbert
  28. 28. Summer In The Mountains , Li Po
  29. 29. Summer Holiday , Robinson Jeffers
  30. 30. A Summer Afternoon , James Whitcomb Riley
  31. 31. An Indian Summer Day On The Prairie , Vachel Lindsay
  32. 32. Indian Summer , Dorothy Parker
  33. 33. In The Summer , Nizar Qabbani
  34. 34. Fair Summer Droops , Thomas Nashe
  35. 35. I Know I Am But Summer To Your Heart , Edna St. Vincent Millay
  36. 36. A Summer Sunrise , James Whitcomb Riley
  37. 37. Late Summer , Edwin Arlington Robinson
  38. 38. Summer Nights , Deborah Ager
  39. 39. Summer Evening , John Clare
  40. 40. The Summer Sun Shone Round Me , Robert Louis Stevenson
  41. 41. Summer Images , John Clare
  42. 42. 'Tis Moonlight, Summer Moonlight , Emily Jane Brontë
  43. 43. Summer Wind , William Cullen Bryant
  44. 44. When On A Summer's Morn , William Henry Davies
  45. 45. Moonlight, Summer Moonlight , Emily Jane Brontë
  46. 46. Tis The Last Rose Of Summer , Thomas Moore
  47. 47. Summer Dawn , William Morris
  48. 48. Early Summer Rain , Yosa Buson
  49. 49. In Summer , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  50. 50. Summer For Thee, Grant I May Be , Emily Dickinson
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