“Sonnet 17: Who will believe my verse in time to come” by William Shakespeare


Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were filled 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 touched earthly faces.”
So should my papers yellowed with their age,
Be scorned like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be termed a poet’s rage
And stretched meter of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it and in my rhyme.

This is the last of the procreation sonnets, where Shakespeare is entreating the fair youth to have children. I got a real sense of the finality of his pleas here. It is like a last-ditch effort, where he asserts that unless the youth marries and raises a family, then the bard’s sonnets will have all been for naught.

Maybe it is because I went to see the new James Bond film, “Spectre,” last week, but the last line made me think of the early Bond film, “You Only Live Twice.” I personally believe in reincarnation, so I believe that you live many lifetimes. But if you do not accept the tenet of reincarnation, then there is some wisdom in the final line of this sonnet. You live two times: the first is your physical life, and the second is the memory kept alive either through procreation or through art. It seems here that Shakespeare wanted to cover both bases for his fair youth.

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day.


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