SAJEEPEDIA

SONNET 17 BY SHAKESPEARE

Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare is the last one in the ‘Fair Youth Procreation‘ sequence – advising the youth to marry and have children in order to preserve his beauty. The sonnet follows rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG written in iambic pentameter.

In this sonnet, the poet (the speaker) is afraid that if the youth doesn’t consent to his obligation and make a copy of himself, the future generations would blame him for falsely describing and exaggerating the youth’s beauty. His main concern in the preceding sonnets was to coax the youth to marry and produce a copy of his beauty. This changes in this sonnet. His fear has strong reasons. He tried all the ways and means in vain to persuade the youth to marry.

The 154 sonnet sequence of Shakespeare doesn’t carry it’s own unique title i.e, Shakespeare did not assign title to his sonnets. Therefore, in all the sonnets, the first line serves as the title. Continue below to read the summary of the Sonnet 17: Who will believe my verse in time to come?

Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare

Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare

Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare

SONNET 17: WHO WILL BELIEVE MY VERSE IN TIME TO COME?

Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?
Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’
So should my papers, yellow’d with their age,
Be scorn’d, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.

SONNET 17 BY SHAKESPEARE SUMMARY

The first quatrain of sonnet 17 starts with a question in which the poet asks the Fair Youth who would believe in future his verses describing the youth’s beauty if he doesn’t reproduce a child who bears testimony of his beauty and his high qualities. The speaker denotes that his lauds may sound like an exaggeration and unbelievable for generations to come as there will be no proof unless his unmatched beauty bears testimony through his child. His verse is merely like a tomb, though heaven knows, that hides his life and hardly can show half his beauty and qualities.

In the second quatrain of sonnet 17, the poet notes that the future generations will not trust him even if he is able to sufficiently describe the beauty of his eyes, his fresh verses detail the rest of his beauty and qualities. They will simply say, ‘This poet lies; Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’ The future generation needs convincing evidence which shows or reflects the beauty of the youth. Or else all his enumerations will seem merely his (the poet’s) own imagination. The speaker not only speaks of the youth’s external appearance, but also his inner qualities.

In the third quatrain of sonnet 17, the speaker argues if the young man is never to marry, his verses will undoubtedly look a pack of lies by an old man and the youth’s true beauty and qualities will be termed as a ‘poet’s rage, and stretched metre of an antique song’. His genuine enumerations will look a stretched truth of old poet to beautify his poetry. Such an impression can be avoided only if he consents to marry.

In the concluding couplet of the sonnet, the poet comes back to the point insisting him to marry and if one of his children lives, the future generation would appreciate the truth in his verses and the youth will live twice; in his rhyme and through his child.

Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare

POETIC DEVICES

In sonnet 17 by Shakespeare, there are several poetic devices employed like metaphor, simile, enjambment and alliteration. Poetic techniques or devices are literary devices used in poetry to enhance the intensity of feeling, to create rhythm and in particular to beautify the verses.

METAPHOR

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another, comparing one thing to another. Here, Shakespeare’s verses are compared to a tomb: Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb.

SIMILE

A Simile is a more vivid and direct comparison of two unlike and different things. This figurative language uses words like ‘as’ and ‘like’ to compare one thing to another similar thing. In Sonnet 17, the poet compares his verses to a pack of lies by an old man: like old men of less truth than tongue.

ENJAMBMENT

Enjambment is a thought that does not come to an end at a line break. But it continues to the next line. Enjambment is employed in the first quatrain of the sonnet: Who will believe my verse in time to come, If it were fill’d with your most high deserts? / Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.

ALLITERATION

Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. Alliteration is employed in the third quatrain of the sonnet: And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage.

Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare Sonnet 17 by Shakespeare

THE 1609 QUARTO VERSION OF SONNET 17

WHo will beleeue my verſe in time to come,
If it were fild with your moſt high deſerts?
Though yet heauen knowes it is but as a tombe
Which hides your life , and ſhewes not halfe your parts:
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in freſh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would ſay this Poet lies,
Such heauenly touches nere toucht earthly faces.
So ſhould my papers (yellowed with their age)
Be ſcorn d,like old men of leſſe truth then tongue,
And your true rights be termed a Poets rage,
And ſtretched miter of an Antique ſong.
But were ſome childe of yours aliue that time,
You ſhould liue twiſe in it,and in my rime.

 

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