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Sonnet 55
Sonnet 55
by William Shakespeare
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Living

Symbol Analysis

Eternal life is definitely a major theme in this sonnet, and the speaker makes it clear that poetry's the ticket to achieving it. So it's no surprise that "living" words pop up everywhere, forming a small linguistic group that reflects line by line how important it is for the speaker that the beloved never die.

  • Line 2: From the beginning, it's a contest. The speaker proudly declares that his poem will live longer than any other work of art or creative attempt to memorialize people. Others have tried but others have failed. This sonnet's going to deliver the goods. Although he hasn't mentioned the beloved yet, we're supposed to identify him with the "powerful rhyme." As long as that outlives everything, the beloved can too. 
  • Line 8: We're still describing the poem here, and it's still vibrant and full of oxygen. Just like time couldn't best it in line 2, here war can't destroy this sonnet's record of the beloved's life. And since it can't be destroyed, that must mean that it's a "living" record. 
  • Line 9: Wowzers, is that subtle or what? A variant of "live" sneaks into "oblivious" in line 9, emphasizing that death and enmity destroy life—make it forgotten. Our beloved, on the other hand, will never be oblivious or forgotten—as long as this poem exists. 
  • Line 14: Finally, we get what we've been waiting for. In its last appearance, "live" steps onto the stage as a verb and the one doing the living is (drumroll): the beloved. What the speaker has been implying all along with these well-placed "lives" is finally stated in the last line: until the end of the world, the beloved lives inside this poem, given eternal life by the speaker's poetic praise.