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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 entombed 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 rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
   You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen)
   Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.


LXXXI. Self-depreciation here takes another form. Shakespeare himself must die and his personality be forgotten. Nevertheless his verse will be an enduring monument to his friend, whose praises will live in the mouths of unborn generations.

3. From hence. From these poems.

4. In me each part. Every part of me.

11. Your being shall rehearse. Shall tell of what you were.

12. The breathers of this world. This present generation.

14. Where breath most breathes. Though those who at present breathe must die, you shall still live in the intensity of life, in the very breath, of those who are yet unborn.

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2013. < >.

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Immortality in verse... Sonnet 55 is one of Shakespeare's most famous works and a noticeable deviation from other sonnets in which he appears insecure about his relationships and his own self-worth. Here we find an impassioned burst of confidence as the poet claims to have the power to keep his friend's memory alive evermore. Read on....


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