Essay: Sonnet 104 Sonnet 104 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English poet William Shakespeare. It’s a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a fair friend. Each stanza expresses Shakespeare’s relationship with his beloved. The sonnet deals with the destructive forces of time as humans grow older and makes a commentary on the process of aging. In the first quatrain, the poet focuses on his beloved, exploring the theme of beauty and aging. The very beginning of the quatrain begins with “To me”, and in the second line, ends with “eye I eyed. These two phrases signified that what he was writing was from his own perspective. The poet did not consider the opinion of the reader and later in the quatrain, continues this theme when he states, “Such seems” in the third line. This quatrain was a commentary on the beauty of his beloved friend. The poet acknowledges that this is his perspective; yet he does not acknowledge the perspective of anyone else. These lines also discuss that his beloved friend is as beautiful as when they first met and that his opinion of beauty is not judged upon the reader.
In the second quatrain, the poet focuses on time passing the significance of evolution. This theme progresses with the continual mentioning of seasons. The poet wants to emphasize the three years that have passed. The natural cycle between seasons emphasizes the time passing. “Summers pride” gives way to “winters cold”, “beauteous springs” give way to “yellow autumn”, and April perfumes make way to the “hot Junes burnd”. This is not only a commentary on how much time has passed, but also a commentary on how beauty can fade.
As stated in the phrases listed above, the changes in seasons always lead to a different landscape. With this evolution, it is only natural that beauty fades. However, the poet makes is blatantly clear in the eighth line that his beloved never changes. This last line of the quatrain shows that his beloved is a fresh beauty. The use of the words “green” and “fresh” signify his beloved’s youthfulness and prove that he has defied nature. This breaking of the cycle proves to be a powerful use of language and diction.
In the third quatrain, the poet recognizes that his beliefs are unnatural, and creates a shift in the sonnet. The ninth line instigates the shift once the poet writes, “Ah, yet”. This sign tone and shift in perception help him come to a realization. This recognition proves that the poet is fooling himself about his friend’s beauty. The “dial-hand” mentioned in the ninth line signifies that even though his beloved friend is actually aging, he only sees him to be beautiful. This metaphor is a perfect representation of his perception of beauty.
As the quatrain continues he explains that his eye deceives him of reality. Like a clock hand moves slowly, he slowly recognizes reality. In conclusion, sonnet 104 is a commentary on the poet’s perception versus reality. The poet ends the sonnet by announcing that no one, after he and his beloved die, could ever understand what beauty really is. The height of beauty was when his fair friend lived. Beauty was and will always be understood as a part of his writing. Though his friend may not be living, his beauty still lies within the poet’s literature.