As long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long live this, and this gives life to thee”
— Sonnet No.18 : William Shakespeare
Explanation of the Couplet :
The final quatrain of the sonnet tells how the beloved differs from the summer in that respect: his beauty will last forever (“Thy eternal summer shall not fade…”) and never die. In the couplet, the speaker explains how the beloved’s beauty will accomplish this feat, and not perish because it is preserved in the poem, which will last forever. Until the end of time (“So long as men can breath or eyes can see”), the poet claims, his poetry (“this”) will prevail and will afford immortality to the young man (“this gives life to thee”). An important theme of the sonnet (as it is an important theme throughout much of the sequence), therefore, is the power of the speaker‟s poem to defy time and last forever, carrying the beauty of the beloved down to future generations.
Question & Answer Need to Prepare :
Q. What does ‘this’ refer to ?
Here in this line by ‘this‘ Shakespeare refers to the sonnet no. 18 which he claims as the‘eternal lines‘ in the twelfth line of the sonnet no. 18.
Q. Who is referred to by ‘thee’ here ? Or, Whom does ‘this’ give life to?
‘Thee‘ refers to poet’s friend whose beauty is immortalized in this sonnet and gives him an eternal life through the ‘eternal lines’.
Q. How long will ‘this’ live ?
Here ‘this’ means Sonnet no. 18. As long as the world exists, this verse will give life to his friend’s exceptional beauty. And he will essentially live on forever through his poetry.
Q. How can ‘this’ give life to ‘thee’?
Here ‘this’ refers to quality of this Sonnet – eternal quality of art. The poet suggests that the “eternal lines” of his work will prevent his friend from being lost in the spell of Death. Although he may literally and physically die, the poem will “give life to” him for as long as people are still living to read it.