Sonnets for Advent 6: Sonnet 18

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Photo: theatre330.com

Today’s Sonnet for Advent is perhaps the most famous of all: Sonnet 18, here read by one of our ‘Shakespeare Aloud’ actors, Martin Smith.

In this sonnet, Shakespeare relates the lasting effect of his poetry – his ‘eternal lines’ – to the life-force of the lover. The lines of poetry give the lover life; the lover gives life to the poetry. And all of this is suffused with images from the natural world: ‘a summer’s day’, buds on trees in late spring, sunshine and the action of nature itself.

Sonnet 18
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
Not 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.

Find out more about Shakespeare’s Sonnets via our free on-line course www.gettingtoknowshakespeare.com

Listen to the same sonnet being read by a student at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

You might like to treat yourself to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s own, exclusive edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited by our Honorary President, Professor Stanley Wells C.B.E., and beautifully printed by Oxford University Press. Find out more by clicking here.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson

Download a free book written by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells about Shakespeare, Conspiracy & Authorship. Download the Book.