Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55 .. No Marble, nor the Gilded Monuments …
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
Meaning .. Shakespeare starts with a very assertive statement. He feels his Sonnet is immune to the destructive potential of time. With passage of time, almost everything human beings create get devoured by time. Whole cities have been wiped out due to the inescapable wear and tear inflicted by the elements. At times, they fall prey to military conquests and are raged to the ground. Kings, emperors, and the rich and the powerful build tombs, memorials, graves, and monuments to immortalize themselves on earth long after they are gone. These majestic structures built with the best and the sturdiest materials defy destruction for some time – a few centuries, at best – but succumb to the ravenous Nature, slowly losing their luster and glamour. Stone by stone, brick by brick, they fall apart till they vanish into oblivion. So destruction of every man-made monument is written in every stone they are built with.
Shakespeare declares that his sonnets, with no destructible element in them, are undying. This is because they reach out to the hearts and minds of people. The lyrical attraction, and the emotion they convey impart them the power to defy time.
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.
Now, it emerges that Shakespeare wrote these lines as a paean for someone (referred to as ‘you’) whom he loved very intensely. The bard feels that the glory and goodness of his beloved friend as narrated in his lines will set the heart of the readers aglow with pleasure, delight and admiration.
As per the Speaker, the vibrancy of his sonnet will be in sharp contrast with the mellowed, dist-laden, weathered, and eroded monuments that are slowly being robbed of their grandeur with the passage of time.