From fairest creatures we desire increase,
This sonnet starts with the line "From fairest creatures we desire increase" meaning that creatures multiply in order to preserve their beauty. Shakespeare is commenting that creatures age "as the riper should by time decease" therefore by procreating the next generation will preserve a creature's beauty "His tender heir might bear his memory".
The person in this sonnet is described as being too self-absorbed to procreate. Therefore although he is beautiful now, this beauty will eventually fade "the world's fresh ornament / And only herald to the gaudy spring"
Sonnet 1 introduces the themes of the first group of sonnets; it explores themes of Beauty, Passage of human life, and wasteful self-consumption.
Sonnet 1 starts a group of the first seventeen sonnets, often referred to as the procreation sonnets because they are about producing offspring.
The structure of Sonnet 1 is simple. The first quatrain describes that Beauty should propagate. The second quatrain argues that the male in the poem has failed to do this. The third quatrain argues that he should do this otherwise his beauty will whither away, with the final couplet portending doom should he fail.
The image of the young man contracted to his own bright eyes, feeding his "light's flame" is an image of self-absorption.
- Alden, Raymond. The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1916.
- Baldwin, T. W. On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1950.
- Booth, Stephen. Shakespeare's Sonnets. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
- Dowden, Edward. Shakespeare's Sonnets. London, 1881.
- Hubler, Edwin. The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952.
- An analysis and paraphrase of the sonnet
- Analysis of this sonnet
- Sparknotes notes on the sonnet
- Shakespeare's sonnets.com on Sonnet 1
- CliffsNotes on Sonnet 1
- The Sonnets – Downloadable text from Project Gutenberg
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