A Shakespearean sonnet consists of fourteen lines, each line containing ten syllables written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a pattern in which a deemphasized syllable follows an emphasized syllable; this pattern repeats five times per line. The rhyme scheme in Shakespearean sonnets is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a rhyming couplet. Shakespeare’s fifteenth sonnet, a procreation sonnet addressed to a young man, is a reflection on human mortality. For example, the phrase “Vaunt in their youthful sap” (7) means that men, like young plants, boastfully put on a show when they are young while their sap is vigorous, but once their “height decrease” (7) they have started their decline. The poet’s warning is to marry and reproduce because time is fleeting and sap runs dry. Shakespeare implies that men, like plants, stay beautiful and perfect only for a brief time. In our “war with time” (13) we detioriate and our beauty fades, but surprisingly Shakespeare offers another way to defeat time: the sonnet itself “engrafts” the young man, keeping him beautiful forever.
When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and cheque'd even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.
An interesting idea, which arises from the sonnet, is the idea of the stars and universe being omniscient. The phrase “Stars in secret influence comment” (4) means cosmos makes hidden...