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Sonnet #76 is in the section of Shakespeare's sonnets generally accepted as being written to the "fair young man." However, there is no clear indication within this sonnet to identify its recipient. The form is consistent iambic pentameter with an abab,cdcd,efef,gg rhyme scheme. The basic argument of this sonnet is the power of the sonnet itself as a lasting expression of love.
In the first quatrain, the poet questions himself about his poetic style. He makes reference to it being "barren" (unproductive, dry, lacking richness or interest) of "new pride" which is an archaic expression for "ornament." He questions the lack of variety or innovation. Then he asks himself why he doesn't follow the current fads (trends) and new methods of expression. Within these lines the poet begins on a path of self-examination into what he is doing specifically in writing sonnets to express his love.
These thoughts are further explored in the next quatrain. The poet asks why he writes always in the same form and style keeping his creative imagination tied to a well-known form. This form is the sonnet which fits the poetic style of the writer in the same way as a garment worn frequently enough to be recognized (therefore, a comfortable garment). The poet feels every word he writes reveals his identity because of the identification of the style and manner of word usage with himself. As a child who resembles his or her parent, his way with words is easily identified. Taking this further, just as a parent cannot disown his child as his true offspring, the poet cannot deny the sonnet as his own true form of expression.
In the final quatrain, the poet tells his recipient that he always writes on one theme--his love and the one he loves. For this reason, the poet finds his best tool in reworking his words and the familiar form of the sonnet. Even as a child is a form of expressing true love (an idea from the early sonnets), his sonnets as his offspring express the poet's feelings in his own unique way. He may have to reuse words and images but he hopes that each new time he can improve the word combinations and embellishments to heighten his attempt to communicate love.
The final couplet brings forth the idea that as the sun rises new each day with all its bright freshness while at the same time it is as old as creation, so the poet's love sonnets are both new and old in what they are saying.
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