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Shakespeare Sonnet 63: "Against my love shall be as I am now"

The Shakespeare sonnets play an essential rôle in my poetry world. Those 154 classic sonnets masterfully dramatize truth, beauty, and love.

Introduction: and Text of Sonnet 63: "Against my love shall be as I am now"

In sonnet 63 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, the speaker is once again concerned about loss through the aging process. He seems to discern, however, that it is only the physical encasement that ages and eventually provides loss.

The speaker then demonstrates his relief and gratitude for his ability to compose sonnets that will outlive his body. He is becoming ever more certain that a certain kind of immortality can be attained through his art. Even if this speaker remains unaware of the immortality of the soul, he can find peace and contentment knowing this art will outlive him.

Sonnet 63: "Against my love shall be as I am now"

Against my love shall be, as I am now
With Time’s injurious hand crush’d and o’erworn;
When hours have drain’d his blood and fill’d his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travell’d on to age’s steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he ’s king
Are vanishing or vanish’d out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

Reading of Sonnet 63

Commentary

The speaker of sonnet 63 broaches one of his obsessions, aging. Though all things physical will age, grow frail, and vanish, his love will remain in his lines of poetry.

First Quatrain: Remaining Ageless

Against my love shall be, as I am now
With Time’s injurious hand crush’d and o’erworn;
When hours have drain’d his blood and fill’d his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn

In the first quatrain, the speaker declares that because of his deep soul love, he will remain ageless—not through his physical body but through his soul’s exceptional talent at creating undying art. As the talented speaker has many times before, he now is demonstrating the permanence of the soul over the evanescence of the body, which grows old, grotesque, and then dies.

The speaker then dramatizes the characteristics of old age: "Time’s injurious hand" will "crush" and wear out his body, and "hours" will drain his blood and fill "his brow / With lines and wrinkles." He continues the drama in the second quatrain.

Second Quatrain: Keeping Undying Love

Hath travell’d on to age’s steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he ’s king
Are vanishing or vanish’d out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;

After his youth has flown by and he finds himself engaged in the ravages of aging, the speaker whose beauty has shown so brightly in his earlier years must contend with his own mortality, he will realized that as those qualities have disappeared, they will have vanished like "the treasure of his spring."

The speaker then delves deeply into portraying the phenomena of growing old, as he emphasizes the destruction that aging brings, in order to compare and contrast the value of his always youthful ability to encase his everlasting, undying love in his sonnets.

The speaker is again celebrating his ability to make art. By writing his poems, he keeps his love alive. His sonnets will not come under ravages of time, nor will they ever be demolished or deemed outworn.

Third Quatrain: Making Hay While the Sun Shines

For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:

The speaker then declares that he is "fortify[ing] himself "[a]gainst confounding age’s cruel knife." In his sonnets, he will engage his love as his flood subject, leaving a record of his love. And even though the physical subjects that populate the speaker's poems may die, the record of his love for them will not.

Again, the reader will note there is no actual person in this poem. The mention of "my lover’s life" refers to the speaker himself. The speaker is the lover, and he as lover will die, but his "sweet love’s beauty" will not, because of his talent and ability to portray that love in poems.

The Couplet: Captured Beauty in Black Lines

His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

The beauty of the speaker's love will live on because it is captured in "these black lines." That beauty will continue to be seen, and "shall live." Also, the speaker's own soul’s essence shall remain "still green" as his love and its beauty continue to exist in a deathless form.

The speaker has learned to appreciate immortality as a virtue of the soul (spiritual encasement) but not of the body (physical encasement.) Yet he seems to keep his grasp on earthly definitions by insisting that he can preserve his love and longing in his poems. For this speaker, certain affections will remain green with spring because he can dramatize them in his poetic creations.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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