Shakespeare Sonnet 108 Analysis: What’s in the brain that ink may character

Shakespeare Sonnet 108 Analysis, theme, summary and modern English translation

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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 108. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis. It is highly recommended to buy “The Monument” by Hank Whittemore, which is the best book on Shakespeare Sonnets.

Shakespeare Sonnet 108 (Original Text)

What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit?
What’s new to speak, what now to register,
That may express my love or thy dear merit?
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must each day say o’er the very same,
Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
Ev’n as when first I hallowed thy fair name.
So that eternal love in love’s fresh case
Weighs not the dust and injury of age,
Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,
But makes antiquity for aye his page,
Finding the first conceit of love there bred
Where time and outward form would show it dead.
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Shakespeare Sonnet 108 Modern Text (Translation)

Shakespeare sonnet 108 Modern English Translation

-via SparkNotes

Shakespeare Sonnet 108 Analysis

The poet is addressing the fair lord asking him what can he write that hasn’t been written before “What’s in the brain that ink may character” that can show to him the loyalty and sincerity of the poets soul “Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit?” what new words are left to write or what new ideas can he invent “What’s new to speak, what now to register,”that can express his love in a better way that will be of more value “That may express my love or thy dear merit?

He calls the fair youth “sweet boy saying there is nothing but yet like prayers “Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,” he has to repeat the same things every day “I must each day say o’er the very same,” without regarding the expressions of love as old because they both belong to each other “Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,”

He says even when he described honorably the youths name for the first time “Ev’n as when first I hallowed thy fair name.” and that the new love became everlasting “So that eternal love in love’s fresh case” and withstood the effects of time and age “Weighs not the dust and injury of age,” and neither did it care about the wrinkles on each other’s faces “Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,” Instead he was always inspired to express his love in the same way when they were young “But makes antiquity for aye his page,”

And now he sees the original look he first felt when they first met each other “Finding the first conceit of love there bred” even though their physical appearances may show that there is no love at all and time has worn it out “Where time and outward form would show it dead.”

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