Sonnet 55

The speaker begins this sonnet with a strong negation that challenges the practice of erecting monuments to gods and famous princes. He claims that “marble” and “gilded monuments” cannot preserve the memory of a person because eventually statues crumble through decay and neglect. He argues that poetry is a better place to preserve the youth because it is protected from time and carelessness by living memory. It exists outside of temporal space within the minds of those who read it. By writing the youth into this poem, the speaker makes the youth impervious to death and oblivion until Judgment Day. However, the speaker also recognizes for the first time that there is a limit to his poetry: it can only preserve the essence, not the physical body, of the youth. In addition, its efficacy ends at Judgment Day. Still, the speaker hopes the youth’s memory will live on as the poem instills itself within “lovers’ eyes.”

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