Sonnet 65 Poem by William Shakespeare Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“Sonnet 65” was composed by William Shakespeare, an English Renaissance poet and playwright, and originally published in 1609. The speaker of the poem laments the passing of time and asks how something as fragile as beauty can last when even the most durable things on earth inevitably fall apart and deteriorate. However, the speaker concludes that there is one thing that can endure time’s unrelenting siege: poetry itself—and, more significantly, the love conveyed in it. Shakespeare wrote a series of sonnets called “Fair Youth” sonnets, each one dedicated to a gorgeous young man. “Sonnet 65” is one of those sonnets.

About the poet

Shakespeare, an English playwright, poet, and actor, is regarded as the greatest English-language author and the greatest dramatist in history. Between 1589 and 1613, he wrote the majority of his well-known plays and histories. Up until 1608, the majority of his works were tragedies, like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. Shakespeare’s plays are performed more frequently than those of any other author because they have been translated into every major living language. His works are still being researched and reexamined. Shakespeare’s posthumous collected work, The First Folio, was published in 1623 by John Heminges and Henry Condell. Ben Jonson’s poem praised Shakespeare as “not of an age, but for all time.”


Line 1-4

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?


The speaker considers how brief human existence is and how physical substances like brass, stone, soil, and the great sea cannot endure the power of death. The speaker wonders how something as delicate and brittle as a flower, like beauty, can possibly withstand the unrelenting force of time.


The physical components of the universe that are frequently thought of as being strong and enduring, such as brass, stone, earth, and the limitless sea, are listed by the speaker. But as time passes, these substances might deteriorate and be destroyed. The speaker wonders how the fragile and fleeting aspect of beauty can resist the overwhelming force of mortality. He contrasts beauty with a flower, whose life is brief and whose influence is constrained. The speaker emphasizes the temporary nature of beauty and how its deterioration is inevitable. The speaker’s reflection emphasizes the contrast between the longing for immortality or permanence and everything’s ultimate weakness in the face of mortality, even beauty.

Line 5-8

O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but time decays?


The speaker considers how the good qualities of summer, represented by “summer’s honey breath,” endure in the face of the destructive effects of time. The speaker wonders why even the most durable materials, such as impregnable rocks and sturdy steel gates, finally decayed by the relentless march of time.


The speaker wonders if the pleasant characteristics of summer, like “honey breath,” can withstand the destructive force of time. He compares the endurance of summer’s attributes to the endurance of steel gates and impenetrable rocks. How can summer’s temporary and delicate qualities, like its sweet breath, withstand its effects? asks the speaker. The speaker emphasizes the brief duration of beauty and pleasurable experiences as well as the inevitable nature of deterioration. The sharp contrast between the temporary beauty of summer and the unrelenting march of time acts as a reminder of both the transience of life and the transience of earthly joys.

Line 9-12

O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?


The speaker expresses worry and sadness at the idea of time’s relentless progression and its capacity to erode and ruin the world’s beauty and precious treasures. The speaker wonders where the most priceless and exquisite objects may be kept safe from the clutches of time and if anybody has the authority to stop time’s quick progress or stop it from robbing us of beauty.


The speaker expresses stress and dismay at the unrelenting passage of time and his concern at the consequences of its influence. As a result of his sense of powerlessness in the face of time’s effect, he asks rhetorical questions. The speaker emphasizes the transitory nature of beauty and richness in the world by lamenting the difficulty of shielding the most precious and valuable things from time’s grip. The speaker emphasizes the futility of attempting to stop time from removing or destroying beauty by asking, “What strong hand can hold his swift foot back?” and “Who his spoil of beauty can forbid?” In light of time’s unavoidable passage, these words express a sense of dread and resignation. The speaker regrets his incapacity to stop or shield the world’s riches and things of beauty from the ravages of time. This thought is part of a larger reflection on death, the transience of material things, and the ultimate helplessness of people in the face of the relentless force of time.

Line 13-14

 O, none, unless this miracle have might,
 That in black ink my love may still shine bright.


The speaker admits that no force or power can stop time’s inevitable march toward destruction and preserve beauty and love. But the speaker offers a remedy: the poetry and written word’s power. The speaker implies that even in the face of time’s degradation, their love may endure brightly by means of the written word, more especially through the ink on the page.


According to the speaker, time cannot stop the deterioration of love and beauty, which is indicative of time’s destructive character. However, the speaker adds the idea of a miracle, asserting that the speaker’s love can endure shining brilliantly through black ink and written words. This implies that the act of expressing love through poetry and maintaining it may resist the passage of time and maintain its essence. The phrase “in black ink, my love may still shine bright” implies that, although being susceptible to the ravages of time, the speaker’s love may be preserved and kept alive through the written word. The word “black” may be used to contrast the temporary and transitory character of beauty and love with the durability and lasting quality of ink. These lines highlight the importance and power of poetry and literature in preserving and documenting feelings, memories, and relationships. By using the transformational potential of words and written expression, the speaker aspires to transcend mortality and leave a permanent witness to their love.