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Monday, June 7, 2010

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?

(Statue of Shakespeare in Leicester Square,

This sonnet, or “little sound” or “song” from the Italian sonetto, is one of the best-known love poems in the English language. At first glance, the poet seems to be likening his beloved to a beautiful sunny day in summer ─ a classic metaphor. But this is Shakespeare. He carefully turns it around. He praises by dispraising. He seems to set out to prove the negative. He points out the many ways his love is unlike those apparently perfect days of summer.


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.

~ William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English poet and playwright

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