English Poetry IV - William Shakespeare - Sonnet 65

Sonnet 65
William Shakespeare (1564–1616 AD)

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

This sonnet is really an extension of Sonnet 64, the more moving of the two. These sonnets are about the ravages of time on both love and life, and how the poet attempts to overcome mortality with his immortal writings. Summer, symbolic of life itself, is here personified, and its battle against Time is couched in an extended metaphor, sustained with words and phrases such as 'wreckful siege', 'battering days', 'impregnable', and 'gates of steel'. Shakespeare was intensely disturbed by the ceaseless passage of the destroyer Time. But the final couplet provides us with some hope that there is something about mankind that will ultimately resist and defeat time. In the poet's case, it is through his verse that he will emerge victorious.
- Analysis of Sonnet 65, Shakespeare Online

This theme translates to Julius Caesar as well. Caesar is unfazed by the soothsayer’s proclamation in act one, and even though Calpurnia seems for a time to have succeeded in keeping Caesar home on the day of his eventual murder, he goes to Senate anyway. Caesar walks into his own death, much less literally than Brutus, who does actually walk into the sword that kills him. But in these deaths in the context of the play serve to elucidate the truth that death (or ‘Time,’ as the sonnet refers to it) will consume you regardless of your ambitions or future plans; it does not take you into consideration. Obviously, Caesar would not have gone to Senate if he knew he would be stabbed upon entering, just as Brutus and Cassius would not have engaged in a full-blown war if they knew they would be dead before it was over.
- Connection to The Tragedy of Julius Cæsar


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