SONNET 104 By William Shakespeare POEM: EXPLANATION: To me, fair friend, you never can be old, The poet is writing a tribute to his friend. Fair = good / fine. Age is NOT a good thing, so the poet is saying, don’t worry, I’ll never think of you as old. For as you were when first your eye I eyed, To me you’re just the same as when I first met you. Shakespeare uses the phrase “eye I eyed”. He uses this play on words to say ‘when I first saw you’. The phrase creates rhythm. Such seems your beauty still. Three winters As you were, so you remain. cold Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride, Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned He uses a metaphor of the seasons to indicate the passing of time. When the season changes from summer to winter, the leaves, fruit, flowers, etc (i.e. the pride of summer) fall from the trees. So he’s saying that three years have passed (summer to winter x 3). He continues the metaphor by saying that three springs (beauteous = beautiful, bountiful) have turned to autumn when all the leaves turn yellow (spring to autumn x 3). In process of the seasons have I seen, The metaphor continues. In spring, all the plants smell gorgeous. However, Three April perfumes in three hot Junes as summer reaches its height, the heat becomes too much and flowers burned begin to wilt (spring to summer x 3). Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are All this passing of time (i.e. three years) has occurred since he first met his green. friend. Shakespeare uses the words “fresh” and “green” to continue on the whole nature metaphor. Green = new. The memory of his friend looking all sparkly and wonderful is still fresh / green / new in his mind. Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand, Now Shakespeare gets down to reality. He admits that time changes a Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived, person (“steals from his figure”). He compares the aging process to the hands of a clock (“dial hand”). You don’t really notice it move but yet it does (“no pace perceived”). So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth In the same way, Shakespeare’s friend is also aging (“your sweet hue … stand, hath motion”). However, Shakespeare chooses not to see this (“methinks Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived. still doth stand” / “my eye may be deceived”). For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred; And now comes the ‘punchline’ of the poem. Shakespeare speaks to the “age unbred”, in other words, the generations of people who haven’t yet been born. Ere you were born was beauty’s summer He says: sorry for you! The ultimate in beauty (“beauty’s summer”) – i.e. his dead. friend – has already lived and died before you were ever born.
YOU CANNOT KNOW THE FEARS I HAVE By Shabbir Banoonbhai POEM: EXPLANATION: you cannot know the fears i have This poem is written by a parent about his child. It details his feelings as i think about you (hopes and fears) for his unborn child. i fear that i shall live only at your laughter He wants so much for his child to be happy and full of laughter that he fears he will not be able to cope when his child faces sadness. lie awake long nights while you sleep This desire for his child to be happy will cause him to lie awake at night and so loneliness does not trouble you nor hunger, nor thirst worry. He wants to be on hand just in case his child wakes up and needs him. He also wants to make productive use of this time to write so that he can provide an income for his child. overwhelm your waking world with wonder If you want your child to be smart, you need to provide lots of mental stimulation when the child is small. This is what the poet wants to do for his child. Overwhelm = provide lots of. Waking world = when the child is with the music of other worlds, your earlier home awake. Wonder = mental stimulation. He will achieve this through music. This music should not be limited to whatever is playing on the radio. It should reflect diverse cultures (“other worlds”). read to you poems written the night before He will also mentally stimulate his child by reading him / her poetry, even if while you smile bewildered the child doesn’t understand it. Bewildered = puzzled / uncertain. or just when my very breathing begins to depend on you even as your tiny fingers close around mine some insensitive thing crushes your butterfly spirit Remember the beginning of the poem. It’s talking about the fears that he has for his child. This is one of his fears: He fears that some insensitive person will hurt his child emotionally (“crushes your butterfly spirit”). This is distressing to him because he has bonded with his child and become so very close to him / her (“my very breathing begins to depend on you”), that he feels his child’s pain. When his child hurts, so does he. shadows of a sun-darkened land The “shadows” are sinister threats that come from a flawed / damaged flow over you and the eclipse closes your eyes i cannot live with the thought of having you, loving you any other way A day without such care has no meaning system of government in the land (“sun-darkened land”). His child will not escape these sinister threats (“flow over you”), and these forces may deprive (“closes your eyes”) his child of certain opportunities (“eclipse”). An eclipse is when the moon crosses in front of the sun, temporarily turning light into darkness. People who are afraid of getting hurt protect themselves by closing themselves off to love. They become emotionally hard. Even though the poet understands that loving his child in this intense way will cause him pain, he is not prepared to protect himself by distancing himself from his child, or loving him / her less. To him, that would be meaningless. we shall find for you a name Your name is very significant because it represents you. The poet wants to your name shall bring light find the right name for his child. The meaning of this name should express the positive attributes he hopes his child will possess.