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Sonnet 55 Art and Culture Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Line)

Quote #1

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme (1-2)

The marble monuments of England's wealthiest dead people have a lot going for them: they're old, gold, and built to be indestructible. But our speaker has news for the creators of these works of art: they won't last. This poem, on the other hand, is a "powerful rhyme." It's built out of nothing and that means it's truly indestructible.

Quote #2

But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time (3-4)

Coming after the tomb monuments in lines 1-2, this "unswept stone" probably refers to the stone floors of cathedrals where slightly less rich people bought a foot or so to carve memorials for themselves. But if no one's sweeping the floor, it won't be long until these inscriptions are completely buried by the detritus of time. Goodbye, stonework. Hello, poetry that doesn't need a broom to shine brightly.

Quote #3

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry (5-6)

Like time, war spells disaster for any material art. Notice in line 6 how the many O's in "broils," "root," "out," "work," "of," and "masonry" punch holes in the line itself, just like violent soldiers ripping out the stone walls of city buildings.

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