Vocabulary in Sonnet 55

Vocabulary Examples in Sonnet 55:

Sonnet 55 4

"You live..."   (Sonnet 55)

As the speaker often does in the sequence, he uses the word “this” to refer to the poem itself. The spareness in diction represents a kind of shorthand: the speaker finds this self-referential move unremarkable.

"sluttish time...."   (Sonnet 55)

“Sluttish” in this context means dirty, careless, or slovenly. The speaker personifies Time as “sluttish” to place Time in a physical realm and suggest that it intentionally contributes to the physical deterioration of the stone. In turn he also justifies why the poem can preserve the youth: Time cannot “besmear” his abstract words as it can physical stone.

"unswept stone..."   (Sonnet 55)

“Unswept” in this line suggests that someone was supposed to sweep, or care for the stone of these princes’ monuments. Because the monument goes “unswept” the line suggests that the memory of this great prince has faded. It was not preserved by the stone image.

"oblivious enmity..."   (Sonnet 55)

The phrase “oblivious enmity” bears two meanings. Here “enmity” encompasses all of the destructive forces listed so far: natural decay, neglect, and war. These forces are oblivious in the sense that they are ignorant of the importance of preserving the memory of the fair youth. The enmity is also oblivious in the sense they they are bound for oblivion. The neglectful, harmful people the speaker refers to are doomed to be forgotten.