The classical concept that the verse preserves, against the ravages of time, the love that it commemorates is, perhaps, nowhere so happily manifested, as in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Indeed, Shakespeare’s sonnets, particularly those which are addressed to a young man of a rather controversial identity, are inspiring efforts to immortalize the glory of love in a mortal world which is constantly threatened with the wrecks of time. With utmost poetic earnestness, he brings out in such sonnets the conflict between the invincible power of time and the unchanging devotion to love and vindicates the power of his art to stand against the blow of time. The sonnets, in fact, are inspired with the fervor of a lofty idealism of love that seeks and finds an enduring consolation in the work of art in a world where time is omnipotent.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are certainly philosophic and idealistic. But they are quite free from any undue metaphysical abstraction or speculation. While admitting the impregnable strength of time, the poet asserts the noble zeal of love and the power of his verse to immortalize the same.
There is, indeed, in his sonnets a distinct and highly impressive theme of the conflict between time and love
Of course, there is not much of the categorical defiance or vaunting on the part of the poet, in his treatment of the power of time. Some of his finest sonnets rather frankly admit the power of time to end all worldly things, including natural objects. The sonnet Shall I compare Thee to a Summer’s Day (Sonnet 18) may be cited as an instance here. The poet here is frank in his admission how time wrecks different natural elements. The “darling buds of May” are shaken, whereas “summer’s lease hath all too short a date”. The “gold complexion” of the sun even dims and “every fair from fair sometimes declines.”
The power of time is also emphasized in the other sonnet Let me not to the Marriage of True Minds (Sonnet 116). Here again, the poet shows how time kills “rosy lips and checks.” In fact, there is no effort by the poet to deny the grim fact that time decays all things, natural elements as well as human beauty.
The sonnet ‘When I have seen‘ (Sonnet 64), deals specifically with this theme of time and love. The poet is found here painfully conscious of the power of time to wreck all mortal glories as well as physical elements. He is even sadly certain of the power of time to take away his love. He does not defy here the ‘fell hand’ of time, but rather yields himself to the same in a plaintive mood