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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SONNET 116

by William Shakespeare


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.[1] Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:[2]
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark[3]
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star[4] to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken[.5]
Love's not Time's fool,[6] though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:[7]
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.[8]
If this be error and upon me proved,[9]
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


This is, perhaps, the most loved of Shakespeare's sonnets with it's beautiful, oft-quoted summary: "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds."

Love, it seems, is the art of persistence: it loves through every change of fortune, time and circumstance. It does not ask for fair exchange, a quid pro quo. It gives—profusely--expecting nothing in return.

Love does not change when a loved one changes. It does not withdraw when the other draws away. It endures love's tempests and torments willingly. It is not thrown off course, nor is it shaken by storms, but remains steady, resolute, and strong.

Love does not fade when outer beauty fades, but grows even stronger. It does not alter through time, but loves till death shall separate one from the other. It bears all things "to the edge of doom."

This cannot be error, for scripture strongly affirms it. To put it Paul's way, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."[10]

Doublehaul Dave

[1] An allusion to the words of the marriage service in The Book of Common Prayer: "If either of you know cause or just impediment why you should not be joined together in holy matrimony… you do now confess it."
[2] “bends with the remover to remove”: to remove (draw away) from the remover (one who has withdrawn).
[3] The "ever-fixed mark": a lighthouse. The "sea-mark of my utmost sail" (Othello 5.2.305)
[4] "star": Polaris, the north star
[5] "whose worth's unknown": Again, the north star. The star's value can never be calculated, although its height can be measured from the horizon.
[6] "Love's not Time's fool": Love is not at the mercy of time.
[7] "his": time's scythe. Physical beauty bends and falls under his sweep ("compass").
[8] "edge of doom": death. "Doomsday is near; die all, die merrily" (Henry IV, 4.1.141).
[9] "upon me proved": If I am proved to be wrong.
[10] 1 Corinthians 13:8

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