Immortality In Literature Essay

1169 words - 5 pages

For centuries people have desired to transcend the limits of a temporary life, yearning for the ultimately unattainable goal of immortality. Poets have expressed in certain poems the desire to remain as they are with their beloved despite time and death. Although William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” and Edmund Spenser’s “Sonnet 75” both present immortality through verse, only Spenser combines this wish for immortality with love and companionship, while Shakespeare promises himself immortality as long as the sonnet continues to be read. Spenser debates with his lover, treating her as his equal, whereas Shakespeare takes an egotistical approach to the topic and praises himself. Nevertheless, both Shakespeare and Spenser approach the subject in an original and individual manner. Spenser begins with a romantic situation and uses dialogue to convey the idea of surpassing the limits of time with his lover. Shakespeare addresses the reader with a monologue. Both William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” and Edmund Spenser’s “Sonnet 75” present the idea of the ability of poetry to immortalize and allow one to outlast time and death.
William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” is chiefly concerned with the human desire to be remembered and immortalized in an attempt to defeat time. The poem suggests a strong awareness of the inevitability of death using images of the decay that accompanies time and emphasizing the destructive results of “wasteful war” (5). Traditionally, the octave presents the problem, which in this case is temporary life, and the sestet provides the solution to the dilemma of a fleeting existence. In the first eight lines of the poem, the speaking persona discusses the different forms of destruction likely to befall any physical attempt to immortalize the memory of a person. The following six lines present the sonnet itself as a successful means of immortalization. Shakespeare has the utmost confidence that his poems will be enjoyed forevermore, “Ev’n in the eyes of all posterity / That wear this world out to the ending doom” (11-12). The anxiety running throughout the poem is not merely due to a fear of destruction, but the idea that all traces of the subject’s existence may be completely erased from history. The poem rejects feeble human attempts at preserving the memory of an individual by building monuments. The sonnet itself is represented as an indestructible vehicle of immortality. “You live in this,” (14), declares the speaker in the last line of the sonnet, suggesting that the poem itself will be preserved since it is immune to physical obliteration. The last line tells how the poem will achieve immortality by suggesting that despite time, this sonnet will always “dwell in lovers’ eyes” (14). This phrase claims that while human beings and physical monuments are lost and forgotten, this verse will forever exist in the eyes of all lovers who will read the poem throughout time. In the final couplet, “So, till the judgment that yourself arise, / You...

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