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Sonnet 55 Theme of Warfare

If a special someone asked you to write a love poem, would you start brainstorming about war and violence and total urban destruction? Probably not. Then why does so much of Sonnet 55 look like Apocalypse Now? Our speaker is so serious about tooting the greatness of his poetry and his beloved that he needs some extreme contrasts. Instead of just telling us that this poem will last a long time, he first shows us how war will destroy everything that makes cities beautiful, toppling statues, smashing churches, burning buildings. Then comes the kicker: only his poetry will escape. And since his poetry only exists to praise his beloved, that nice-looking dude will escape too.

Questions About Warfare

  1. How are war and death related in this poem?
  2. Why is only art being destroyed in this poem? What about all the human casualties?
  3. Why bring in Mars?
  4. Which is worse: time or war? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In this sonnet, war is an attack on art rather than on people, land, or political power. Don't worry, though, art can handle this.

Time and war work together to destroy human culture. Sure was fun while it lasted, though…

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