Study Material of Not Marble, nor the Gilded Monuments (Summary and Word Meanings)

Summary of the Poem

This 55th sonnet of William Shakespeare tells about the limitations of worldly glory and grandeur. All the great monuments, memorials and statues erected by princes, rulers and the rich to perpetuate their memory are subject to decay, destruction and deterioration. The ravages of time and the agents of destruction destroy and damage all such monuments and memorials. Only the powerful rhyme of the poet and great poetry will survive the ravages of time. Through the written words of this poem, poet will immortalise the memory of his friend till the day of the Last Judgment.

Stanzas Explanation

Stanza 1: The poet tells that whether it is marble or gold plated monuments of great rulers and kings, all will get destroyed but the magnificence of his poetry is alive forever. Time is compared to a slut, who loses her glow and beauty with time. Shakespeare compares time unfavourably to a female subject.

Stanza 2: When destructive wars take place, they will destroy statues and also all the work of the masons will be destroyed. Even the Sword of Mars, God of War, or the destructive fires of war will be able to destroy your memory. The poet is basically saying that, even wars will not destroy the written memories of your life, for they will survive even after deadly wars.

Stanza 3: This stanza doesn’t talk about survival, but of human appreciation. The poet continues to praise his subject. Slight deviation of the meter in the words “Even in” creates emphasis for this permanency. The poet says that, death and enmity destroys everything, but poetry written of the subject will be immortalised for all generations to come.

Stanza 4: The ending couplet is a summary of the survival theme. The couplet not only summarises the rest of the sonnet, but also seems to contradict itself. “Judgement” goes with the talk of judgement day in the last stanza, but implies that the subject is alive and will be judged on that day. “Dwelling in lover’s eyes” suggests that subject is love itself. Thus Shakespeare seems to consider the subject so lovely that he is a personification of love, which could be conquered and to which no poetry can do justice. So, the thesis of the sonnet is that the subject will be honoured forever and eternal.

Terms and Meanings from the Poem

• Gilded - gold-plated
• Unswept stone - a stone monument left uncared for
• Besmear'd – rusted
• Sluttish - of unclean habits and behavior
• Broils – disturbances
• Mars – the god of war
• Quick - fast moving
• Living record - this written memory of your life which continues after you are dead
• Gainst – against
• Oblivious enmity - enmity which is forgetful of everything and so seeks to destroy everything
• Pace forth - stride forwards
• Posterity - future generations
• Doom - the day on which the Last Judgment will occur
• Judgement - the day of the last judgement

View NCERT Solutions of Not Marble, nor the Gilded Monuments
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