SONNET XVI: LET ME NOT TO THE MARRIAGE OF TRUE MINDS
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove;
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Love, that is pure and true, and whose constancy defies time and crisis, is the overarching theme of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The poet says that immortality, which is sought by every human being, can be obtained by experiencing untainted, perfect love. Any couple, united in such love shall endure.
Shakespeare, in this sonnet, uses several imageries, to emphasize the unflinching nature of such pristine love. The poet compares love with a lighthouse, which stands strong, and weathers the worst of storms, only to show the path to those who are lost and strewn off-course. Love’s all embracing shelter similarly serves as a beacon of hope to the one that is wayward. Countless adrift and disoriented vessels depend on the pole star for the correct direction, the height and position of which have been measured, but the value of which is imperceptible. True love, is quite similar in nature, as according to the poet, it guides the lost, to the correct path.
Shakespeare’s sonnet is about the transience of beauty, and about how it can be defeated by love. The velvety softness of youthful lips and the smooth rosy cheeks are symbols of beauty, which cannot stand the test of time, and gradually fades. Love, which fades with the loss of bloom is not true love at all. Pure love perseveres through such impediments with utmost ease.
The poet personifies love and time, and says that time is not love’s fool. Fool here refers to a jester or motley, who is the butt of all ridicule. Love has a steadfast nature, where time is irrelevant. Time is again being compared to the grim reaper, who brings an end to life with his scythe. But, love which is carried on with the same ardour and intensity, till the very last day, has the capacity of evading the “bending sickle’, as it can never be measured by hours or weeks, or any such short unit of time.
In the final couplet, the poet in a challenging tone, says that if anyone can contradict him, or prove him erroneous, then he will withdraw everything that he has ever said and written, and never would he say that anyone has ever truly loved.