Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2: When Forty Winters Shall Besiege Thy Brow

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2: When Forty Winters Shall Besiege Thy Brow

This sonnet “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow” has actually the same message which the poet, Shakespeare has tried to convey in the very first sonnet “Fairest Creatures we desire increase.” Here the poet once again stresses the idea of having beautiful children by beautiful youth because there will be a time when he will lose his beauty. Having been asked where his beauty is, he will have to be ashamed one day for losing it. He must be able to say that his beauty can be seen in his child.

In the first quatrain, the poet addresses the Fair Youth. He says after forty years; the Fair Youth will start losing its beauty. His face will start having wrinkles. He will start getting old. The people will stare at him minutely only because of the beauty which he had in the past. His dressing of youth will become like a ‘tattered weed.’ It will cause the loss of the importance he has enjoyed in the past. He will lose the attraction of physical appearance.

In the second quatrain, the poet says that the Fair Youth enjoys the appreciation of the onlookers. If he is asked where the treasure of his beauty is, where his youth is and where his bulging eyes are because now he has sunken eyes and wrinkled face. He will become depressed to have all the questions from the onlookers because he always enjoys the appreciation of his admirers but now all the things are gone. He will be ashamed of it.

In the third quatrain, the poet says that the Fair Youth can get satisfaction as well as the admiration of the people even in his old age only if he has a beautiful child. He will win the regard and admiration of the people if he would be able to answer “This fair child of mine shall sum my account.” His coming generation will be able to witness his beauty in themselves.

In the last two lines of the poem, the poet says that the beauty of the Fair Youth will be seen in his children. Even after getting old, he will be able to win the admiration of the people. He will never lose his spirit and see it with great satisfaction. If for some reason, he is unable to have spirit or unable to have the warmth of life, he will get the true spirit and passion to see his beauty in his child. He will never lose his passion for life. He will lead the remaining days of his life with full zest and zeal.


The structure of the poem is traditional. It consists of 14 lines. The first 12 lines constitute 3 quatrains and the last 2 lines make a couplet. These two concluding lines also make a set of rhyming lines.

In so far as the use of poetic devices is concerned, the use of metaphor, euphemism, and personification is exemplary.  The poet has used metaphor skillfully. We know that a metaphor is actually a comparison between two things that are not similar. No ‘like’ or ‘as’ is used in this comparison. The first two lines of the poem are the best example of the use of metaphor. Let’s have a look at the first two lines.

                                   When forty springs shall besiege thy brow

                                  And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field.

Here, it is very obvious that the poet says that the appearance of the Fair Youth will lose everything one day and there will be ‘deep trenches’ on his face.

Similarly, the poet has used ‘personification’ in the poem. personification is a poetic device in which the ideas are treated as if they were human beings and have human characteristics. For example, in the poem ‘Leisure’, the poet William Davies personifies ‘Beauty’ in the form of a beautiful girl. It is very obvious when he says “No time to turn at Beauty’s Glace, And watch her feet how they can dance.” Similarly, in this sonnet, the poet, Shakespeare has used ‘personification’ in the poem. it is very obvious when he writes: “Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade.” We know that Death cannot brag. Here, the poet has personified ‘Death’ that can brag.

The Theme of the Poem:

In so far as the theme of the poem is concerned, once again the theme of the poem is ‘Procreation’ i.e. the birth of the offspring. The poet here again suggests the Fair Youth to have beautiful children so that they may leave a legacy of beauty for their own generations as well as for the generations of onlookers.

To conclude, the poet has written this poem with his mastery over language and knows how to write a masterpiece like this poem. With amazing writing skills, he has done his job to convey his message even to a layman.