'Sonnet XVIII' by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

I never gave a lock of hair away
To a man, Dearest, except this to thee,
Which now upon my fingers thoughtfully,
I ring out to the full brown length and say
' Take it.' My day of youth went yesterday;
My hair no longer bounds to my foot's glee,
Nor plant I it from rose or myrtle-tree,
As girls do, any more: it only may
Now shade on two pale cheeks the mark of tears,
Taught drooping from the head that hangs aside
Through sorrow's trick. I thought the funeral-shears
Would take this first, but Love is justified,--
Take it thou,--finding pure, from all those years,
The kiss my mother left here when she died.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Sonnet XVIII" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Timeless Ode to Love

If you ask any poetry enthusiast to name a few of their favorite sonnets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Sonnet XVIII" is sure to make the list. Written in the mid-19th century, this poem has withstood the test of time and continues to inspire readers with its passionate portrayal of love. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll take a close look at the poem's structure, language, symbolism, and themes to understand why it still resonates with us today.

An Overview of the Poem

Before delving into the poem's details, let's first get a sense of its overall structure and message. "Sonnet XVIII" consists of fourteen lines, which are divided into two quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a sestet (six-line stanza). The rhyme scheme is ABBA ABBA CDCDCD, a common pattern in Italian sonnets. The poem's main subject is the speaker's love for their beloved, and the poem can be interpreted as an attempt to immortalize that love.

The Language of Love

One of the most striking aspects of "Sonnet XVIII" is its use of language to convey the speaker's emotions. From the very first line, the poem establishes a tone of reverence and awe, as the speaker compares their beloved to a "summer's day." This comparison sets up a contrast between the fleeting, ephemeral beauty of summer and the eternal, enduring beauty of their beloved. The poem goes on to list several ways in which the beloved is superior to summer: their beauty is more "temperate" (moderate), their "lease" (time) is longer, and they will never "fade" or "lose possession" (line 9).

In the second quatrain, the poem shifts to a more reflective tone, as the speaker acknowledges that even the most beautiful things eventually decay and die. The "rough winds" of time and nature can "shake" and "dim" the beauty of summer, just as they can "alter" and "remove" the beloved's physical form. However, the speaker argues that love itself is not subject to these laws of mortality - it can "not fade," "not lose possession," and in fact, it can grow stronger over time.

The sestet of the poem takes a more philosophical turn, as the speaker contemplates the power of love to transcend even death. They ask the rhetorical question, "Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade, / When in eternal lines to time thou growest" (lines 11-12). The answer, of course, is that the beloved will not be subject to death's power, because their beauty and their memory will be immortalized in the poem itself. The final couplet serves as a sort of capstone to the poem's argument, as the speaker declares that as long as people continue to read this poem, the beloved's beauty and love will live on.

The Symbolism of Seasons

Another important element of "Sonnet XVIII" is its use of seasonal imagery to convey the fleeting nature of beauty and life. The comparison of the beloved to a summer's day is an obvious example of this, but the poem also references other seasons and natural phenomena. The "darling buds of May" in line 3 represent the freshness and newness of spring, while the "summer lease" in line 4 is a reference to the temporary, ephemeral nature of summer. The "rough winds" and "summer's lease" both allude to the idea of impermanence and change, which is a central theme of the poem.

Themes of Immortality and Mortality

At its core, "Sonnet XVIII" is a meditation on the themes of immortality and mortality. The speaker's love for their beloved is so strong that they are driven to find a way to make it eternal, to transcend the limitations of time and death. The poem argues that love itself has the power to do this - that by expressing their love in words that will live on after their death, the speaker can ensure that the beloved's beauty and memory will never fade.

At the same time, the poem acknowledges the reality of physical mortality and decay. The comparison to a summer's day serves as a reminder that even the most beautiful things are subject to the laws of nature, and that everything eventually fades and dies. However, the poem argues that while physical beauty may be fleeting, the beauty of love and memory can last forever.


In conclusion, "Sonnet XVIII" is a timeless ode to love that continues to resonate with readers today. Through its use of language, symbolism, and themes, the poem captures the transcendent power of love to conquer even the inevitability of death. As we read and re-read this poem, we are reminded of the beauty and fragility of life, and the importance of cherishing the people and things we love. It is no wonder that this poem has remained a favorite of poetry lovers for over a century and a half - its message is as relevant and poignant as ever.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Sonnet XVIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a classic piece of poetry that has been celebrated for its beauty and depth of meaning. This sonnet is a part of the collection of sonnets titled "Sonnets from the Portuguese," which was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning during her courtship with Robert Browning. The sonnet is a tribute to the power of love and the eternal nature of beauty.

The sonnet begins with the speaker addressing her beloved, saying, "I never gave a lock of hair away / To a man, Dearest, except this to thee." The speaker is expressing her love for her beloved and the depth of their relationship. The lock of hair is a symbol of the speaker's devotion to her beloved, and it represents the physical manifestation of their love.

The second quatrain of the sonnet continues with the speaker describing the lock of hair as "a pledge of love / That poets swear by, of all things high." The speaker is saying that the lock of hair is a symbol of their love, and it is something that is revered by poets and lovers alike. The lock of hair is a physical representation of the love that the speaker and her beloved share, and it is something that they both hold dear.

The third quatrain of the sonnet is where the speaker begins to explore the theme of the eternal nature of beauty. The speaker says, "And now, beloved, 'tis not thine to give / This poor, tired, wandering lock of hair to me." The speaker is saying that the lock of hair is no longer important because their love has transcended the physical realm. The lock of hair was once a symbol of their love, but now their love is so strong that it no longer needs physical symbols to exist.

The final couplet of the sonnet is where the speaker makes her final statement about the eternal nature of beauty. The speaker says, "For this, we'll break the vase, and spill the wine / And give thee all that grief and I have known." The vase and wine are symbols of the physical world, and the speaker is saying that they are willing to break these physical symbols in order to show their love. The speaker is saying that their love is so strong that it transcends the physical world, and they are willing to sacrifice everything for it.

Overall, Sonnet XVIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a beautiful tribute to the power of love and the eternal nature of beauty. The sonnet is a celebration of the physical and emotional aspects of love, and it explores the idea that love can transcend the physical world. The sonnet is a testament to the power of love and the enduring nature of beauty, and it is a classic piece of poetry that will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.

Editor Recommended Sites

Dev Asset Catalog - Enterprise Asset Management & Content Management Systems : Manager all the pdfs, images and documents. Unstructured data catalog & Searchable data management systems
Ops Book: Operations Books: Gitops, mlops, llmops, devops
Best Scifi Games - Highest Rated Scifi Games & Top Ranking Scifi Games: Find the best Scifi games of all time
Startup Gallery: The latest industry disrupting startups in their field
Learn AWS: AWS learning courses, tutorials, best practice

Recommended Similar Analysis

My Galley, Charged with Forgetfulness by Sir Thomas Wyatt analysis
Home Burial by Robert Frost analysis
To A Sexton by William Wordsworth analysis
Computation , The by John Donne analysis
Maid of Athens, ere we part by George Gordon, Lord Byron analysis
Or From That Sea Of Time by Walt Whitman analysis
Satire III by John Donne analysis
If I could bribe them by a Rose by Emily Dickinson analysis
Law Like Love by W.H. Auden analysis
Song To Celia - I by Ben Jonson analysis