Sonnet 17

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Sonnet 17

Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say 'This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'
So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,
Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.

–William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Sonnet XVII, the last of his procreation sonnets, questions his own descriptions of the young man, believing that future generations will believe them to be exaggerations if he does not make a copy of himself (a child).


Shakespeare insists that his comparisons, even though they are quite strong, are not exaggerations. Shakespeare even goes as far as to say that his verse is a "tomb" that hides half of his beauty. Shakespeare argues that the descriptions in fact are not strong enough, and they do not do justice to the man's beauty. ("If I could write the beauty of your eyes,/"). The sonnet ends with a typical notion that should the young man have a child, he shall live both in the child and in the poet's rhyme.

As in Sonnet 130, Shakespeare shows himself again to be quite conscious and hesitant in terms of flamboyant, flowery proclamations of beauty.



  • Alden, Raymond (1916). The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.
  • Baldwin, T. W. (1950). On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
  • Booth, Stephen (1977). Shakespeare's Sonnets. Yale University Press, New Haven.
  • Dowden, Edward (1881). Shakespeare's Sonnets. London.
  • Hubler, Edwin (1952). The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  • Schoenfeldt, Michael (2007). The Sonnets: The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Poetry. Patrick Cheney, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Tyler, Thomas (1989). Shakespeare’s Sonnets. London D. Nutt.
  • Vendler, Helen (1997). The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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