"Sonnet LV" by William Shakespeare has two themes: the passing of time and the immortalizing of a young man. The first half of Shakespeare's sonnets dealt with his love for a young man and forever keeping him alive through the sonnets that Shakespeare wrote.
This poem is narrated from the first person point of view. The poet speaks directly to the youth referred to in the sonnet. The tone of the poem is serious and confident in the ability of the sonnet to commemorate the youth's life.
The Shakespearean sonnet has fourteen lines with three quatrains[four lines] and a rhyming couplet or the last two lines. The rhyme scheme follows this pattern: ABABCDCDEFEFGG. Usually at line 9, the poem changes directions slightly in its theme.
The first quatrain points up the idea that neither royal marble or gold monuments will be able to outline the power of poetry. The young man will out shine even the graveyard stones that are damaged by the elements and time.
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
The second quatrain accentuates that when the destructive wars are fought and damages art work and statues and the battles ruin the work of the architects and the brick masons...neither the Roman god of war nor his mighty weapons who cause the wars to break out and fires caused in battle...none of these things will burn away the memory of your life.
The third quatrain speaks to the fact that the young man will outlive death and oblivion in the eyes of future generations and even until the end of time.
The final couplet states that when Judgment day comes, you will be taken by Christ to heaven; until then, you will live on in this sonnet and in the eyes of lovers.
Shakespeare did understand the power of the written word. It has been over four hundred years since the poem was written, and the Sonnet LV about the young man is still being read.