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Sequences in poems

Updated: Feb 25

Mixed sequences make up a far more significant portion of human language and fantasy than should be expected from current perspectives on the nature of the mind. It's not a small part or particular selection of aesthetic expressions which incorporate references to the given qualities, but a majority.


Shakespeare’s "Sonnet 18," one of the most famous poems, provides an example of how sequences of the given more and less exciting qualities are used in poetry. Assuming “summer” is reasonably synonymous with heat, “wind” and “breath” with fluidity, “fair,” “gold,” “shines” and “day” with brightness, “rough” and “shake” with disorder, “changing,” “living” and “wander’st” with dynamic, heaven with “up,” “lines” with order, “dimm’d,” “fade” and “shade” with darkness, “death” and “eternal” with static, and “decline” with down, every line in the poem contains a reference to at least one of the 14 given qualities, except perhaps the second, which points out that the subject, “thee,” is more lovely than a sunny day and at the same time contradictorily more temperate, creating a sense of moderation. Altogether there are 28 references to the qualities of interest in the 14 line poem.


"Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."


-Shakespeare, Sonnet 18 (Poetryfoundation.org 2021)


Mixtures in the poem include those between brightness and darkness in gold dimm'd and summer fading, between stasis, dynamism and darkness in death, wander'st and shade, and three instances of roundness disruption: buds of May shaking in rough winds (disorder—dynamic—fluid—round), a hot eye shining from up in heaven (hot—up—bright—round), and eyes versus breathe (fluid—eye).


Works Cited


Shakespeare, William. 2021. “Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's...” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45087/sonnet-18-shall-i-compare-thee-to-a-summers-day.


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