“Thy eternal summer shall not fade”: Flower of all Seasons in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18


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Shakespeare intertwines two characteristics of beauty, while at the same time subtly showing their differences, showing that inner transcends outer beauty. Beauty is rare and true beauty even more so; true beauty is beauty that’s on the inside, and is lacking in many, yet Shakespeare was able to find a woman who is beautiful from the inside out. Shakespeare, in sonnet eighteen, uses descriptions of nature, and imagery to imply, and directly compare them to a girl with true inner beauty, one which surpasses even her own outer beauty.
The poet compares the imperfections of summer to contradict the iridescent outer beauty of the girl he loves. Even though the summer seems like the best season, it is always undesirably “too short” (4) and nature always has its faults but the girl does not. Sometimes it’s “too hot” (5) and sometimes on a beautiful day its gold complexion is even dimmed, the clouds overcast which is believed, by some, to foreshadow bad luck. But her beauty is never overcast by something else nor her “gold complexion dimmed” (6). However, all these imperfections are not natural for her. She, he praises, is “more lovely” and “more temperate” than a summer’s day (2). In praising her beauty he even emphasizes the word “more”. Both lovely and temperate are words that show effective use of diction. While he does choose words that accurately express his feelings they also have strong connotations lovely could imply high attractiveness and exquisite beauty and temperate could imply that she is by nature a very strong, yet mild and self controlled person.
Shakespeare also shows all of summer’s imperfections through the imagery of flowers. Another instance where summer’s beauty is cut short by nature and therefore is incomparable to the girls’ beauty is when the “Rough winds...Shake the darling buds of May” (3), May is a time in the year when the weather starts to warm up and flowers are in full bloom, beautiful at the very beginning of summer. But sadly nature comes and snatches the beauty away, the image of the winds of May coming and blowing petals off the beautiful flowers shows the “Rough” behaviors, and shortcomings that nature has to offer. At the same time the wind is also a metaphor for adversities or problems in life and how he praises the one he loves because she is not affected by obstacles. The poet also expresses and emphasizes that even though the buds and the flowers may wither with the rough winds, her beauty still holds intact; especially her inner beauty, her temperate nature that ever endures adversity.

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When Shakespeare says: “But thy eternal summer shall not fade” (9) shows a transition into something more cerebral. The words “eternal summer” indicate that he no longer wishes to praise her outer beauty but move on to something more insightful, something more profound and erudite-inner beauty. True beauty comes from the inside and he does not want to be encompassed by traditional poetry styles of writing where outer beauty is the essence of the poem. He breaks boundaries with his keen, incisive poetry to get to the heart of the girl he loves. He praises her “eternal summer”, by that he means her inner beauty which is everlasting. Shakespeare implies that her inner beauty outshines her outer beauty. By saying that “every fair from fair declines” (7), Shakespeare is saying that every beautiful thing, at some point, becomes less beautiful and that all things may lose “possession” of beauty. Similarly, like summer, outer beauty is limited. However, this is not the case with her inner beauty; for her, that beauty will never dim, nor wither like the flowers in the wind, nor be dimmed like the sun. She will always remain beautiful on the inside.
Shakespeare suggests that she is like a flower of all seasons; she is so beautiful that she can never “lose possession” (11) of it. Even Death would not be able to brag that it hovers in its shade because her eternal summer, her eternal inner beauty is indestructible and is not subject to time. However, he contrasts that with her “eternal summer” implying that even though she may age gracefully with her looks her inner beauty defies time and will remain the same and as long as “men can breathe or eyes can see” (13) her inner beauty will keep her beautiful and will “give life to thee” (14).
Unlike her outer beauty, her inner beauty is incomparable to a summer’s day. Shakespeare repeatedly expresses that her true beauty lies within and is like an endless summer not affected by natures rough attitudes and is ideal, without imperfection. And it shall not fade away or be overcome by something foreign because it is everlasting, it transcends time barriers.




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