'Sonnet XVII' by William Shakespeare

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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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

An in-depth look at Shakespeare's Sonnet XVII

As one of the most celebrated poets of all time, William Shakespeare's works continue to inspire and captivate readers centuries after they were written. Shakespeare's Sonnet XVII is a prime example of his genius, with its beautiful language and poignant message. In this literary criticism, we'll take a closer look at Sonnet XVII, exploring its themes, interpretations, and relevance today.

The poem

Before analyzing the poem, let's first take a look at Sonnet XVII in its entirety:

I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where, I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Themes and interpretations

One of the most striking aspects of Sonnet XVII is its theme of love. However, this is not a typical love poem - Shakespeare's portrayal of love is much more complex and nuanced. The opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem: "I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz / or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off." Shakespeare is rejecting the idea of loving someone superficially, based on their appearance or material possessions.

Instead, he compares his love to "certain dark things," things that are not typically associated with beauty or light. This suggests that love is not always easy, and that it often involves accepting someone's flaws or imperfections. Shakespeare's use of the word "secret" also adds to this sense of complexity - perhaps the speaker's love is a secret because it is difficult or unconventional.

Later in the poem, Shakespeare uses the metaphor of a plant that never blooms to describe his love. This is another example of how the speaker's love is not based on external appearances or superficial qualities. The plant may not be outwardly beautiful, but it still contains hidden beauty and fragrance. Likewise, the speaker's love may not be showy or flamboyant, but it still has a deep and profound impact on his life.

The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most poignant: "so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, / so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep." This suggests a deep level of intimacy and connection between the speaker and the object of his affection. They are so close that their identities blur together, and they become one entity.

Overall, Sonnet XVII is a powerful exploration of love, its complexities, and its ability to transcend superficiality and materialism.

Relevance today

Even though Sonnet XVII was written hundreds of years ago, its themes and messages are still relevant today. In our image-obsessed culture, it can be easy to focus on superficial qualities when it comes to love and relationships. However, Shakespeare reminds us that true love is much deeper than that.

Furthermore, the idea of a secret or unconventional love is also relevant today. In a world where social norms and expectations can be suffocating, it can be difficult to express unconventional love. Shakespeare's poem serves as a powerful reminder that love is not always easy, but it is still worth pursuing.


In conclusion, Shakespeare's Sonnet XVII is a beautiful exploration of love, its complexities, and its ability to transcend superficiality and materialism. Through his use of metaphor and rich language, Shakespeare creates a poem that still resonates with readers today. Whether you're a fan of classic literature or simply a lover of poetry, Sonnet XVII is a must-read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Shakespeare's Sonnet XVII is a classic piece of poetry that has stood the test of time. It is a beautiful and romantic sonnet that captures the essence of love and the power of words. In this article, we will analyze and explain the meaning behind this sonnet, and why it continues to be a favorite among poetry enthusiasts.

The sonnet begins with the speaker acknowledging that his beloved is not perfect, but he still loves her deeply. He compares her to a summer's day, which is often seen as the epitome of beauty and perfection. However, he notes that his beloved is more lovely and temperate than a summer's day. This comparison sets the tone for the rest of the sonnet, which is a celebration of the speaker's love for his beloved.

The speaker goes on to say that he has tried to capture his beloved's beauty in words, but he has failed. He says that no matter how hard he tries, he cannot fully express the depth of his love for her. This is a common theme in Shakespeare's sonnets, as he often explores the limitations of language when it comes to expressing complex emotions.

The speaker then makes a bold statement, saying that his beloved's beauty will never fade. He says that even when she grows old and her physical beauty fades, her beauty will still live on in his words. This is a powerful statement, as it suggests that the speaker's love for his beloved is not just based on her physical appearance, but on something deeper and more enduring.

The sonnet ends with the speaker addressing his beloved directly, telling her that as long as there are people who can read and appreciate poetry, her beauty will live on. He says that his words will give her immortality, and that she will be remembered for generations to come. This is a beautiful and romantic sentiment, and it speaks to the power of poetry to capture and preserve the essence of human experience.

Overall, Sonnet XVII is a beautiful and romantic sonnet that celebrates the power of love and the enduring nature of poetry. It is a testament to Shakespeare's skill as a poet, and it continues to be a favorite among poetry enthusiasts. Whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or simply appreciate beautiful poetry, Sonnet XVII is a must-read.

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