William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is, of course, widely considered to be the master poet of the English language.  Especially known for the brilliant language and the deep and powerful manifestation of human character in his plays - masterpieces such as "Hamlet", King Lear", "Othello", "MacBeth", and "Julius Caesar", to name a few - he is also highly regarded as a master craftsman of the "Elizabethan Sonnet."  This type of sonnet is identified by a tell-tale structure: a total of fourteen lines, consisting of three quatrains with ending rhymes in alternate lines (first and third line, second and fourth line), followed by a couplet, each of the final two lines ending in a rhyme.  The quatrains are usually not separated from each other, but rather, fused into one body; while the couplet is minimally set off by means of an indentation.  The Elizabethan sonnet is, furthermore, generally permeated by iambic pentameter (an internal rhythm formed by five "measures" of two syllables each, per line, with the accent placed upon the second syllable of each measure).  In the manner of the Japanese haiku and tanka, the poet was constrained by the form, yet, with practice, might finally learn to wear its demands, and to use it as springboard for beautiful creations.  This was certainly so in the case of William Shakespeare.


Sonnet XVIII

Sonnet XXX

Sonnet LV

Sonnet LXVI


Sonnet CXVI

Sonnet CXXX


Sonnet XVIII 

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:

Sometimes 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 owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

    So long lives this and this gives life to thee.


Back To Top  



Sonnet XXX 


When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste;

Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,

And weep afresh love's long-since-cancell'd woe,

And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight.

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before:

    But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

    all losses are restored, and sorrows end.


Back To Top  



Sonnet LV  


Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rime;

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.


Back To Top



Sonnet LXVI 


Tired with all these, for restful death I cry, -

As, to behold desert a beggar born,

And needy nothing trimmed in jollity,

And purest faith unhappily forsworn,

And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,

And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,

And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,

And strength by limping sway disabled,

And art made tongue-tied by authority,

And folly doctor-like controlling skill,

And simple truth miscalled simplicity,

And captive good attending captain ill:

    Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,

    Save that to die, I leave my love alone.


Back To Top  



Sonnet LXXIII 


That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west,

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

    This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,

    To love that well which thou must leave ere long.


Back To Top  


Sonnet CXVI  


Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments.  Love is not love

which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out ev'n to the edge of doom: -

    If this be error, and upon me proved,

    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Back To Top




Sonnet CXXX  


My Mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips' red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

    As any she belied with false compare.


Back To Top  


Poetry In The Public Domain Contents

Poetry And Lyrics Contents 

Creative Safehouse Contents 


Site Contents