Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
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 prov’d, I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
This is in the form of an English or Shakespearean sonnet with three four-lined quatrains followed by a couplet. The other major form of sonnet is the Petrarchan which has an eight-line stanza followed by a six-line conclusion and with varying rhyme schemes.
The poet is describing how true love is never-changing and does not change "when it alteration finds". The metaphor of sailing the ocean is strong with "an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests"; in other words the North Star. A "bark" or barque is a three-masted sailing ship.
In the third quatrain Time is personified but although his sickle may alter the course of beauty it cannot change love which lasts "even to the edge of doom" - until the end of life.
In the final couplet Shakespeare is saying if he is proved wrong in his description then no man ever-loved.
I'm listening to the wonderful and tragic Robert Wyatt singing with his group Matching Mole. The song, O'Caroline has real meaning in his life and is not just a love song. One day I will write a post about Wyatt. Listen HERE.