When I consider every thing that growsHolds in perfection but a little moment;That this huge stage presenteth nought but showsWhereon the stars in secret influence commént;When I perceive that men as plants increase,Cheerèd and checked ev’n by the self-same sky,Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,And wear their brave state out of memory;Then the conceit of this inconstant staySets you, most rich in youth, before my sight,Where wasteful time debateth with decay,To change your day of youth to sullied night;And all in war with time for love of you,As he takes from you, I engraft you new.
Shakespeare Sonnet 15 Analysis
In Sonnet 15 Shakespeare speaks of self-preservation saying how every living thing “every thing that grows” although beautiful is only short-lived “but a little moment”. He compares life to a stage play “huge stage presenteth nought” influenced by the stars and universe “stars in secret influence”
He compares the growth of men to plants “men as plants increase” nourished and revitalized by the same universe “cheque’d even by the self-same sky”. He observes how man is full of vitality and boastful as a youth “their youthful sap” but slowly shrinks and ages into an old man “at height decrease” who will be erased from memory.
He says that it is the youth’s young age though lasting a short time “conceit of this inconstant stay” makes him look most beautiful to the poet. But, eventually, time will steal these youthful looks “wasteful time” and turn the youth into an old man where he compares old age like the “sullied night”
He then ends by saying he will wage war with time out of love for the youth “war with Time for love of you” and though he may grow old and die, the poet will immortalize him through his poetry “immortalize your youth in my poetry”.