For Better for Verse: An interactive learning tool that can help you understand what makes metered poetry in English tick.

Link to U.Va. English Department

Sonnet 18(1609)

William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
MeterShall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
MeterThou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
MeterRough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
MeterAnd summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
MeterSometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
MeterAnd often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
MeterAnd every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;
MeterBy chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
MeterBut thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
MeterNor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
MeterNor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st;
MeterWhen in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st;

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
MeterSo long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
MeterSo long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Note on line 14: Rhythmically, this is a sonnet of unusual placidity. Every line is end-stopped, and many are perfectly regular. There is no distinct caesura until the couplet, and even there the pause in line 13 remains pretty slight. All this serenity comes to a firm point with the caesura of the final line — effecting not surprise, but a spondaic aplomb whose confidence in poetry’s survival gets confirmed afresh each time a reader arrives at Shakespeare’s conclusion.


Rhyme

Resources

  Click the link above to hear the poem read by Classic Poetry Aloud.
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