A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55: ‘Not marble, nor the gilded monuments’

Posted: 05/09/2017 by vequinox in Literature

Interesting Literature

A reading of a classic Shakespeare sonnet

‘Not marble, nor the gilded monuments’ is one of the more famous poems in Shakespeare’s sequence of 154 sonnets. The poem is a version of the popular conceit that the poet’s words can make his lover immortal through ‘rhyme’. As commentators are quick to point out, the Bard failed in one sense, in that we cannot say for certain what the name of the addressee of the poem was (the Earl of Pembroke? or the Earl of Southampton?). But the poem is a fine example of the English sonnet, and so repays closer analysis.

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
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…

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