One of the recurring themes I noticed in Shakespeare’s sonnets are the two concepts of
love and time. Shakespeare often writes time as being a devouring force or personifies it as a tyrant that eventually overtakes everything. This description of time especially struck out to me in sonnets sixty-four and sixty-five. Sixty-four begins with the poet describing different objects such as lofty towers or brass that have been decayed by time. In a way, this first quatrain shows the struggle between people and time, as all of the objects that are described were man-made.
The second quatrain describes the struggle between an overtaking ocean and a firm soil. The ocean is described as hungry and having advantage over the kingdom of the soil while the soil is described as standing firm. The final line of the quatrain tells of how the soil increases store with loss and loss with store. To me, this quatrain directly relates to the struggle between man and time. The ocean would be the symbol for time, while the land would be the symbol for man.
Time has the advantage over mankind and constantly beats against it. Mankind stands firm though, and while it takes losses, it rebuilds and regrows. Despite this fortitude, the poet has become destitute with the realization that time will eventually take everything away; most important of which is the poet’s love. This sonnet describes the dread realization that despite our best efforts, everything that we love, including ourselves, will eventual succumb to time.
This theme of time overtaking everything continues into sonnet sixty-five, from which
the poet continues to describe the hopelessness of trying to overcome time in all three quatrains. Having made his point on how overpowering time is, the poet ends by giving a sliver of hope. “O!, none, unless this miracle have might, That in black ink my love may still shine bright.” The poet suggests that the only hope of overcoming time is to write. More specifically to write and make known different aspects of life, with love being the most important. With these two sonnets, Shakespeare explains how writing provides the only way to survive into history. We can even see this by looking back at the history of the world. Everything before writing is considered pre-history, and little specifics are known of this time. After writing came about however, we known much more about the past. Time might have claimed the ancient towers and cities, but they have survived the test of time as we still know about them today. In Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poet has come to this realization and gains solace in the fact that even though time will claim his love, his love will continue to shine and be known through writing.
~Justin Dale Kemp