A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
This is the eighteenth poem in Shakespeare’s series of 154 sonnets published in 1609. Most scholars believe, based on textual evidence, that the last 28 sonnets are addressed to Shakespeare’s mistress, the “Dark Lady,” while the middle poems, of which Sonnet 18 is the first, are thought to be directed to a young man. The sonnets were dedicated to W. H., whose identity remains a mystery, although William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, is frequently suggested because Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) was also dedicated to him.
Sonnet 18 is the most famous and most quoted of Shakespeare’s lyric poems; it is a celebration of youthful beauty which concludes with an ironic joke about Shakespeare’s own burgeoning fame.
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,
Nor 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.