Sonnet 18 is William Shakespeare's most famous poem and one of the most famous sonnets ever written. But thine endless sunshine will not pass away. Neither should thou lose possession of that beauty thou ow'st; Nor may Death boast that thou hast wandered in his shadow, when thou hast grown in endless lines to time; And when each year has added to thy glory, he hath taken from thee only life, which is more wondrous than all death could have been.
Shakespeare wrote many poems during his career as an actor-manager on the Elizabethan stage. Some are lyrical love songs to young women, others satirical portraits of people or events. But they all share a simple rhyming pattern and a concern for the fate of the poet's beloved. Sonnet 18 is the most famous of these poems because it is one of the few that has survived into modern times. It was probably written around 1598 for someone called "Fair Youth".
This sonnet has had a huge impact on how we think about poetry and poetry itself. Before this poem was written, people didn't see any difference between poetry and prose. Both were used to express ideas and emotions so they could be understood by everyone who read them.
Sonnet 18 is not just William Shakespeare's most famous piece, but also the most famous sonnet ever written. It was first printed in 1609 in an edition of 154 copies of what are now called "sensational" sonnets. Today, these sonnets are among the most valuable manuscripts in the world; each is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Shakespeare wrote many great poems that have survived into modern times. But he also wrote some that haven't survived at all. Sonnet 18 is one of those that didn't make it into print. It was probably never intended to be published. It's a poem that his friends and family knew about but only a few people outside of this small circle of friends and family knew about. That's why it's so amazing that it has survived at all.
In fact, there are very few poems by Shakespeare that aren't part of some larger work. Most don't survive at all - they were never meant to be published. Others become lost over time (like Sonnet 18). Yet others come down to us in slightly altered form (like many of Shakespeare's own works) because someone decided they wanted to use them in a play or movie.
The most significant figure of speech in "Sonnet 18" is a long metaphor comparing Shakespeare's lover to a summer's day that runs throughout the sonnet. "But thine endless summer shall not fade," a metaphor inside the sonnet-long extended metaphor, compares the lover's beauty to an eternal summer. The word "eternal" here means "without end", and thus the lover will never age and become wrinkled like everyone else.
This sonnet was probably written for someone who was already married. If this is true, then it could be that the poet is telling the woman that even though her husband loves her, he will still want to look at other women once she is gone. Or perhaps the poet is warning her against marrying so quickly without really knowing his or her spouse? Whatever the case may be, this sonnet is very beautiful and thought-provoking.
Shakespeare uses many different figures of speech in this poem including similes, metonyms, and oxymorons. A simile is when you compare one thing to another thing which is known by its similarity. In this case, the poet is saying that his lover's beauty is like that of a summer's day: it can't be compared to anything because there is nothing better or worse than her face.
A metonymy is when you name or describe something in relation to what it represents or contains within itself.