The formal structure of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 64 is largely reinforced by the logical and syntactical structure; each of the three quatrains begins with the same extended conditional "When I have seen" clause and contains the completion of the thought expressed by the clause. However, the first quatrain also contains a second conditional "When" clause (lines 3-4), and the last two lines of the third quatrain introduce the "That" result clause for all the foregoing lines. The repetition of the four conditional "when" clauses, and especially the three anaphoric extended "When I have seen" clauses, build up expectation for the result clause and final resolution. The "When" clauses by their very nature emphasize the changes brought about by the passing of time, for the poet is stockpiling examples of…
The above is provided to make the student aware of the focus of the Analysis of this sonnet. The complete essay begins below.
Paraphrase of Sonnet 64
When I have seen the wealth and pride of splendor of long ago despoiled by the passage of time; when I see once lofty towers that are now tumbled down, and even brass, which is supposed to last forever, altered by the mortality of time's passing; when I have seen the hungry ocean wash up to encroach upon the shoreline, alternating back and forth between loss and gain; when I have seen this interchanging flux between states, or those states themselves (with the possible additional meaning of political states) brought to decay, then pain has made me think that time will also take away my love. This thought is like death to me, and can only choose to weep for the possession of that which it fears it will lose later.
FORMAL, LOGICAL, AND SYNTACT...
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...of mutability and exemplifies the image of give and take in line 8. This "interchange" brought about by alliteration and assonance works against the regularity of the meter and the repeated "a" rhymes in the lines. The slight dissonance in the di-syllabic rhyme of "defaced" and "down-razed" creates a slight jarring which is also suggestive of the imperfection attendant upon mutability. Alliteration and assonance which occur in two elements that are widely separated in the same line create a kind of tension by pulling the line both apart in terms of proximity and together in terms of similarity of sound, as in "slave . . . rage," "proud . . . outworn," "thought . . . cannot," "ruin . . . ruminate," and "Time . . . take." Alliterative pairs also serve to tie in the first two words of line twelve ("That Time") with the beginning of the couplet ("This thought").
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