"Sonnet1" is the first sonnet by Shakespeare in his long list ofwritings that are fantastic. In this sonnet, the rhyme scheme is ABABCDCD EFEF GG. The used style in writing is the Shakespearean sonnet,since the sonnet has three quatrains, each with four lines and aconcluding couplet with the rhyme scheme illustrated above. Thecouplet has two rhyming lines. The poem was written iniambic-pentameter, since each line consists of ten syllables dividedinto ten pairs of iambic feet “Fromfairestcreatureswe desireincrease.”The lines run smoothly and the volta is in the place it is expectedto be. The volta introduces a new persuasion for the young man to‘pity’ the world and procreate. I think that variation would beuseful in this poem as it would give more emphasis on the topic beingaddressed.
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty`s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed`st thy light`st flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world`s due, by the grave and thee.
Shakespeare uses the first quatrain to show the main ideas for thepoem. It communicates the moral foundation of the poem that beautyshould procreate itself. Each of these lines introduces a particularidea. The first line is about the value of procreation to humanbeings. The second one gives a suggestion that this is the only waywe can remain immortal. The third one introduces the threat ofpassing time and the fourth line summarizes all of these byshowing the “tender heir” who to his parents representsimmortality, but with time, will grow old and die. The main ideabehind the quatrain is that, if we would like to live forever, thenhaving children is the only way.
The second quatrain scolds the young man for going against the moralobligation of procreation he wastes his beauty on himself alone.Here, the young man is described as being too self-absorbed andthough the poet admits that the subject has beautiful eyes, thedecision of not having children is viewed as unhealthy and goingcreating a misery where there is happiness “Making a famine whereabundance lies.” The poet ends up by suggesting that the subject ishis own worst enemy, and does not see the significance of havingchildren as a way of passing on his good looks to the nextgeneration “Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.”
In the third quatrain, the poet gives the young man a reason toabandon his ways and obey the moral obligation to procreate, citingthat his beauty will wither and disappear. Despite being the “freshornament to the world,” eventually, this beauty will fade as hegrows old and if he fails to pass it on to the coming generation hewill then be left with nothing. So, the term rose is used as awarning, giving the young man the idea that someday, just like arose, he will wither and die too.
In the last two lines, the concern is extended to the wider worldwhere the poet encourages the subject not to just sympathize withhimself or the poet, but instead should “have pity for the world.”The poet threatens that the grave will eat up his beauty and it wouldbe so selfish to steal it from the world.
The main issue in the sonnet is that a young man who is sohandsome has refused to bear children despite being encouraged. Thepoet is trying to remind him that it is important to pass on thebeauty to the next generation. This is because with time, he willgrow old and die and without a child, the beauty will just vanish.The solution to this problem in the sonnet is easy the young man hasbeen urged to have a child or else he will be perceived as a gluttonbecause he will take all his good looks to the grave. This solutionis good as it helps to ensure that the subject leaves an offspringafter they are long gone. This indicates that the speakeracknowledges that human beings are immortal, as hinted in lines 2 and4. He cares about continuity of life, and thus he urges the young manto procreate.
The central metaphor in the sonnet is the rose and it hasbeen used to demonstrate how the young man is wasting his own beautyand within himself and wasting it due to his selfishness “Withinthine own bud buriest thy content.” It has also been used to likenthe attractiveness of youth and beauty. Like roses, youth and beautyare so attractive and loved by everyone. But someday they grow old,wither, and become forgotten and replaced by younger ones. Thesignificance of this metaphor is that it brings about the idea thatwhen one decides to be selfish and defy morals, they actually destroythat which is good in them, by themselves. This implies that whetherthe subject bears the children or not, someday they will grow old anddie therefore the best thing is to have an offspring that will enablethis beauty to continue existing. Metaphors are used in poetry toconvey a speaker’s message in a hidden manner, and using few words.
The words chosen in this sonnet fit the theme as the subject (theyoung man), has been highly praised and as such he feels so importantand is also selfish. He views the world in a narcissistic way, andthis gives an explanation as to why the poet chooses words that arenegative for instance, die, glutton, famine, cruel etc. The phrase‘we desire increase’ points to procreation, which is a biblicaldirective and a moral obligation as well. The “tender heir” inline four alludes to the fact that the child will carry the goodnessof the parent once they grow old and die.
The cautionary tone has been used in this poem. In the firstquatrain, the speaker addresses the young man as the ‘fairestcreature’, and generally argues the need for procreation. He thenadmonishes the young man in the second quatrain for his refusal toprocreate due to his selfish interests. In the third quatrain, thespeaker reiterates his belief that the young man is making a mistakeby choosing not to reproduce. In the couplet, there is a warning forthe young man to “pity the world” and be cognizant of the factthat refusing to procreate is the same as allowing his desirablequalities to be consumed by death.
In this sonnet, Shakespeare used the style ofiambicpentameter where the line is composed of ten syllables. Thesesyllables have been subsequently grouped into five pairs. Forinstance:
Making a famine where abundancelies
The line “Making a famine where abundancelies” is a variation from the regular iambic pentameter it is aninitial reversal. It begins with an unstressed syllable.
This variation is significant in the sense that it brings aboutmusicality in the poem.
Human beings are immortal. Youth and beauty are very special gifts toeveryone, but the most important thing is how one makes use of them.It is therefore good to make maximum use of them and the main focusshould be on the future generations.
Leishman, J. B. Themes and Variations in Shakespeare`sSonnets. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Print.
Paterson, Don. Reading Shakespeare`s Sonnets: a NewCommentary. New York: Faber and Faber, 2012. Print.
Post, Jonathan F. The Oxford handbook of Shakespeare`spoetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.