Nor Marble, nor Gilded Monuments

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Sonnet 55 - "Not marble, nor the gilded monuments" What's he saying? "Not marble, nor the gilded monuments / Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;" Statues and monuments will not last as long as this poem; "But you shall shine more bright in these contents / Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time." And you will last longer, immortalized in this poem, than the stone statues and monuments, which will fade and become dusty over time. "When wasteful war shall statues overturn, / And broils root out the work of masonry," War and other disturbances will destroy statues and monuments, "Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn / The living record of your memory." But poetry, which memorializes you, cannot be destroyed by these means. "'Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity / Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room" You shall outlast death and all other forces that seek to destroy things "Even in the eyes of all posterity / That wear this world out to the ending doom." Even for future generations. "So, till the judgment that yourself arise, / You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes." So you will live in this poem until judgment day. Why is he saying it? Sonnet 55 builds on Horace's theme of poetry outlasting physical monuments to the dead: Exegi monumentum aere perennius / Regalique situ pyramidum altius ... / Non omnis moriar. This phrase translates to, "I have built a monument more lasting than bronze / And taller than the regal peak of the pyramids... / I shall never completely die. In Horace's Ode 3.30, it is himself who will be immortalized by his poetry, but in the case of Sonnet 55, Shakespeare seeks to build a figurative monument to his beloved, the fair lord. However, the fair lord is not described or revealed in anyway in this sonnet; instead, the sonnet just addresses the idea of immortality
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