Sonnet 81

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Sonnet 81

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.

–William Shakespeare

Sonnet 81 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It's a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man. The sonnet is notable because all possible pairs of its lines, excluding 2-3 and 10-11, may form a complete sentence.


Whether the poet outlives the youth or vice versa the youth will live forever, though the poet be forgotten. The youth will live in the poetry, to be recognised by generations yet unborn.