Study Guide

Sonnet 116 Quatrain 3

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Quatrain 3

Lines 9-10

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:

  • OK, new image: the poet introduces a familiar figure, that of the Grim Reaper. He’s called "Time" here, but we can read that not only as hours and minutes, but as age and death as well.
  • Line 9 tells us that Love isn’t Time’s "fool" – that is to say, Love isn’t a court jester that panders to the will of Time, despite the fact that the "rosy lips and cheeks" of a loved one may fade as they age.
  • The "bending sickle" that swings in line 10 is the scythe that is traditionally pictured in images of the Grim Reaper.

Lines 11-12

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

  • These last two line of Quatrain 3 sum up the point of the whole poem: love doesn’t change over time. It endures the passing of time, which is depicted as fleeting and "brief," and lasts until "the edge of doom," otherwise known as Judgment Day, the end of time, or whatever you want to call it.

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