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Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day by William Shakespeare is a love sonnet in which the poet compares his beloved with summer (season of the year) and explains how his beloved is more beautiful and lovely than the summer?
In the first part of the poem, the poet discusses the shortcomings of summer and in the second part, he talks about the good things of his beloved. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB-CDCD-EFEF-GG.
The poet wonders whether he should compare her to a summer’s day or not because summer, in the poetry is considered something gay and happy. It signifies beauty, joy, and hope.
On the other hand, his beloved is also very beautiful, and seeing her, the poet feels blissful and happy. This is why he raises the rhetorical question of whether he should compare his beloved with summer or not.
In the second line, he declares that his beloved is more lovely and temperate (pleasant and gentle) whereas summer day, on the other hand, is often attacked by rough winds (storms) which shake and even kill the darling (lovely and cute) buds (newly germinated seeds in the flowers) of May (month of the year).
In the fourth line, the poet says that summer’s lease (period of occupation) has too short a date (time). Note that the poet uses the word lease which means chartered and based on agreement. Perhaps the poet is trying to say that the summer is not free and eternal. It is a part of something and remains for a specified time and goes away quickly.
In the fifth line, the poet says that sometimes the eye of heaven i.e. the sun shines too hot i.e. the summer’s day is often very hot and unbearable which makes it undesirable.
Sometimes his (sun’s) gold complexion is dimmed. The poet uses personification in this sentence as he describes the sun by the word his. For him, the sun is like a human. Note that in the previous line, he calls the sun the eye of heaven which is again personification. Heaven here means sky.
Coming back to the 6th line, the poet says that sometimes, the sunlight of the sun becomes dimmed (during evening time) which also takes away its beauty. And even fair from fair i.e. most beautiful day often declines i.e. either goes away (because of the night) or is ruined either by chance (rain or storm or other natural calamities) or by untrimmed i.e. unchanging nature’s changing course.
Untrimmed means which remain the same. Here it refers to the cycle of seasons which remains the same. On the other hand, changing the course of nature means changing seasons throughout the year. As a whole, the line means that the summer has to go away because of the change of seasons which happens in an unchanged way.
In the stanzas, we find that the poet brings into light the shortcomings of the summer season. In this stanza, he tells how and why his beloved is more beautiful in the summer.
According to the poet, thy i.e. your (beloved’s) eternal summer will never fade away. Eternal summer here means everlasting beauty. This statement seems to be contrary to the popular belief that beauty fades away. I think the poet is not talking about the physical beauty of his beloved. Rather he is referring to her inner beauty; the beauty of her soul. It remains forever regardless of age.
In the next line, he says that she will not lose possession of the fair (beauty) that she owns. It means that she will always own that beauty. Nobody can take away it from her unlike the beauty of summer’s day which is chartered and taken away by nature.
Similarly, the death will not be able to make her beauty which she brags (boasts) about, wander i.e. loose in its shade. In other words, the poet is saying that even death cannot take away her beauty. It is eternal and will remain with her even as she grows (becomes old) in eternal (never-ending) lines of time.
In the final couplet, the poet says that as long as men can breathe or eyes can see i.e. the humans are on earth, her beauty will live and this beauty will give her life to her (after her death). In these two lines, he is either referring to the inner beauty which is remembered by the future generations or he may be referring to his poet who will make his beloved alive forever.
As told above, this is a love poem in which the poet describes the inner beauty of his beloved.