The following presentation of Sonnet 18, one of Shakespeare's most famous, will help you visualize the rhyming pattern of the sonnets. I capitalized the last part of each line and typed a letter to the left of the line to indicate the pattern. The meaning of each line appears at right.
Sonnet XVIII (18)
Addressed to the Young Man
Quatrain 1 (four-line stanza)
A Shall I compare thee to a summer's DAY?
If I compared you to a summer day
B Thou art more lovely and more temperATE:
I'd have to say you are more beautiful and serene:
A Rough winds do shake the darling buds of MAY,
By comparison, summer is rough on budding life,
B And summer's lease hath all too short a DATE:
And doesn't last long either:
Comment: In Shakespeare's time, May (Line 3) was considered a summer month.
Quatrain 2 (four-line stanza)
C Sometime too hot the eye of heaven SHINES,
At times the summer sun [heaven's eye] is too hot,
D And often is his gold complexion DIMM'D;
And at other times clouds dim its brilliance;
C And every fair from fair sometime deCLINES,
Everything fair in nature becomes less fair from time to time,
D By chance or nature's changing course unTRIMM'D;
No one can change [trim] nature or chance;
Comment:."Every fair" may also refer to every fair woman, who "declines" because of aging or bodily changes.
Quatrain 3 (four-line stanza)
E But thy eternal summer shall not FADE
However, you yourself will not fade
F Nor lose possession of that fair thou OWEST;
Nor lose ownership of your fairness;
E Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his SHADE,
Not even death will claim you,
F When in eternal lines to time thou GROWEST:
Because these lines I write will immortalize you:
Couplet (two rhyming lines)
G So long as men can breathe or eyes can SEE,
Your beauty will last as long as men breathe and see,
G So long lives this and this gives life to THEE.
As Long as this sonnet...
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