This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 81. 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 81 (Original Text)
Or I shall live, your epitaph to make,Or you survive, when I in earth am rotten,From hence your memory death cannot take,Although in me each part will be forgotten.Your name from hence immortal life shall have,Though I, once gone, to all the world must die.The earth can yield me but a common grave,When you entombèd in men’s eyes shall lie.Your monument shall be my gentle verse,Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,And tongues to be your being shall rehearseWhen all the breathers of this world are dead.You still shall live—such virtue hath my pen—Where breath most breathes, ev’n in the mouths of men.–WIKI
Shakespeare Sonnet 81 Modern Text (Translation)
Shakespeare Sonnet 81 Analysis
Shakespeare puts forward two possibilities saying that either he lives to write the inscription on the fair youth’s tombstone “Or I shall live, your epitaph to make” or the youth survives “Or you survive” and he dies instead. “when I in earth am rotten” Even though the youth may die, he will live on in memories “hence your memory death cannot take,” but if the poet dies, everyone will forget him “Although in me each part will be forgotten”.
He says the youth name will live forever “Your name from hence immortal life shall have” but once he dies, “Though I, once gone” the world consider him dead, “to all the world must die” the poet will be buried in a humble grave in the earth “The earth can yield me but a common grave,” where the tomb of the youth will be the memories of men in which he will live on “When you entombèd in men’s eyes shall lie.”
The monument of the youth shall be the poet’s poetry “Your monument shall be my gentle verse” where future generations who haven’t been born yet “Which eyes not yet created “ will love one day to read it “shall o’er-read,”and they will also speak about the youth long after the present generation will have died “When all the breathers of this world are dead.”
The youth will live on “You still shall live” as ensured by the poet who says his verses are powerful enough to do that “such virtue hath my pen” in the voices, memories, and breath of men “Where breath most breathes, ev’n in the mouths”