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.
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.
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