The Poem

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 387

The opening quatrain of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65 asks how beauty can resist that power in nature which destroys brass, stone, earth, and the sea, since beauty is less durable and powerful than any of those. The earth and sea together cannot withstand death, the dismal (“sad”) state that overpowers everything in nature. In the third line, mortality becomes “this rage”—a violent anger, even a kind of madness, that opposes a most fragile supplicant, beauty. If the earth itself is no match for this force, beauty seems to have no hope of lasting, since its strength is no more than a flower’s.

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The second quatrain repeats the opening question, beauty now characterized by another of nature’s insubstantial and temporary forms, “summer’s honey breath,” which the poet sees as the victim of an assault by a “wreckful siege” in the form of “battering days.” The “earth” alluded to in the opening line is represented here as “rocks impregnable,” and brass has been replaced by “gates of steel.” Neither of these substantial forms can withstand time’s battering and corrosive force. Though asking a question, the speaker implies that any resistance to time is doomed and, further, that natural things are in constant battle with a force that nothing survives, least of all something as evanescent as summer’s breath.

The third quatrain begins with an expostulation that expresses the poet’s feelings as he confronts the prospect of time’s onslaught:...

(The entire section contains 387 words.)

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