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Literary Devices in Sonnet 19

Literary Devices Examples in Sonnet 19:

Sonnet 19


"My love..."   (Sonnet 19)

Despite the speaker’s claim, this poem does not offer an example of “my love” living on through verse. The poem discusses neither the youth nor the speaker’s love for the youth in any detail. Instead, the poem memorializes the speaker’s own preoccupations with time. In the end, the speaker fails in his struggle. It can be argued, however, that Shakespeare succeeds in his portrayal of the speaker’s failure.

"beauty’s pattern..."   (Sonnet 19)

The speaker’s struggle against the passage of time is ultimately selfish. As generations come and go, “beauty’s pattern” continually falls upon new faces and forms. Thus the passage of time is not inherently sorrowful, for the loss of beauty allows for the arrival of beauty, just as the death of the Phoenix makes way for its own rebirth. The speaker cannot recognize this truth because of his obsession with his beloved.

"sorry seasons..."   (Sonnet 19)

By using the metaphors that dominate the first quatrain, the speaker focuses on the “sorry seasons,” or negative consequences, of each of these natural cycles. He dwells on the earth’s consumption, the decay of the lion and tiger, and immolation of the phoenix. He does not recognize, however, that the earth devours so it can reproduce, the lion and tiger fade so that younger generations can overtake them, and that the phoenix burns so it can be reborn. The speaker’s focus on the “sorry seasons” demonstrates his limited vision and explains why this poem is both rhetorically unconvincing and logically weak.

"O..."   (Sonnet 19)

By beginning his entreaty with “O,” the speaker places himself in a position of relative powerlessness. Framed by the “O,” the words “carve not” become less a command than a plea. Throughout the poem, the speaker’s confrontation with time itself proves to be ineffective.

"But..."   (Sonnet 19)

In a typical sonnet, the first two quatrains introduce the poem’s central images, themes, and questions. At line 9 there is typically a tonal and thematic shift—known as the “volta” in the Petrarchan tradition—that leads towards the poem’s conclusion. In Sonnet 19, the volta occurs after just seven lines. The result is a structural imbalance and a weakening of the speaker’s rhetorical force.

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