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Shakespeare Sonnet 63: "Against my love shall be as I am now"

Updated on December 12, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford


Introduction: Physical vs Spiritual

In sonnet 63, the speaker is once again concerned about loss through the aging process. He seems to discern, however, that it is only the physical encasement that ages and eventually provides loss.

The speaker then demonstrates his relief and gratitude for his ability to compose sonnets that will outlive his body. He is becoming ever more certain that immortality can be attained through his art.

Even if this speaker remains unaware the immortality of the soul, he can find peace and contentment knowing this art will outlive him.

Reading of Sonnet 63

First Quatrain: “Against my love shall be as I am now”

In the first quatrain, the speaker declares that because of his deep soul love, he will remain ageless—not through his physical body but through his soul’s exceptional talent at creating undying art.

As the talented speaker has many times before, he now is demonstrating the permanence of the soul over the evanescence of the body, which grows old, grotesque, and then dies.

The speaker then dramatizes the characteristics of old age: “Time’s injurious hand” will “crush” and wear out his body, and “hours” will drain his blood and fill “his brow / With lines and wrinkles.” He continues the drama in the second quatrain.

Second Quatrain: “Hath travell'd on to age's steepy night”

“When his youthful morn / / Hath travell'd on to age's steepy night,” and also when “all those beauties whereof now he’s king” have disappeared, they will vanish like “the treasure of his spring.”

The speaker then delves deeply into portraying the phenomena of growing old, as he emphasizes the destruction that aging brings, in order to compare and contrast the value of his always youthful ability to encase his everlasting, undying love in his sonnets.

The speaker is again celebrating his ability to make art. By writing his poems, he keeps his love alive. His sonnets will not come under “Time’s injurious hand,” nor be “crush’d and o’erworn.”

Third Quatrain: “For such a time do I now fortify”

The speaker then declares that he is “fortify[ing] himself “[a]gainst confounding age’s cruel knife.” In his sonnets, he will engage his love as his flood subject, leaving a record of his love.

And even though the physical subjects that populate the speaker's poems may die, the record of his love for them will not.

Again, the reader will note there is no actual person in this poem. The mention of “my lover’s life” refers to the speaker himself.

The speaker is the lover, and he as lover will die, but his “sweet love’s beauty” will not, because of his talent and ability to portray that love in poems.

The Couplet: “His beauty shall in these black lines be seen”

The beauty of the speaker's love will live on because it is captured in “these black lines.” That beauty will continue to be seen, and “shall live.”

Also, the speaker's own soul’s essence shall remain “still green” as his love and its beauty continue to exist in a deathless form.

The speaker has learned to appreciate immortality as a virtue of the soul (spiritual encasement) but not of the body (physical encasement.) Yet he seems to keep his grasp on earthly definitions by insisting that he can preserves his love and longing in his poems.

For this speaker, certain affections will remain green with spring because he can dramatize them in his poetic creations.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


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