‘Sonnet 107,’ also known as ‘Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul,’ is one of William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. This poem is one of many that belong to a specific series dedicated to the “Fair Youth.” The poem’s speaker, whose usually considered to be Shakespeare himself, shows his devotion to this young man. He has never been identified, but the debate continues among scholars and lovers of Shakespeare’s sonnets in regard to who this person is and what role they played, or didn’t play, in the writer’s life.
Sonnet 107 William ShakespeareNot mine own fears, nor the prophetic soulOf the wide world dreaming on things to come,Can yet the lease of my true love control,Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,And the sad augurs mock their own presage;Incertainties now crown themselves assured,And peace proclaims olives of endless age.Now with the drops of this most balmy time,My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes: And thou in this shalt find thy monument, When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.
Explore Sonnet 107
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker begins by saying that he has been proven right in regard to how long he’d get to stay with the Fair Youth. Those who made false predictions are now laughing at themselves for suggesting that anything else could’ve happened. There was a time when things were uncertain, and the speaker didn’t know for sure what was going to happen, but now he does. He knows that peace is here to stay and that due to this poem he’s written, he and his true love are going to outsmart death. It will serve as their monument.
Throughout ‘Sonnet 107,’ William Shakespeare enrages themes of immortality, love, and writing. This is one of several poems Shakespeare wrote that directly addresses the act of writing. He often acknowledged this, using it as a way to speak about creation, immortality, and his (or his speaker’s depending on how one reads these sonnets) failings. In this particular poem, he uses his writing as a way of driving home his surety that he and his love, the Fair Youth, are going to live on forever. They’ve outsmarted death and found a way to live forever.
Structure and Form
‘Sonnet 107’ by William Shakespeare is a traditional fourteen-line sonnet that follows the traditional pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet. This means that it conforms to a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, and it is written in iambic pentameter.
Iambic pentameter refers to the number of syllables and how they are emphasized in each line. This particular form means that each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed, and the second is stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM. The vast majority of Shakespeare’s work, from his poems to his plays, was written in iambic pentameter. The poem can also be divided into three sets of four lines, known as quatrains, and a final two-line couplet. The last couplet usually comes after the turn or volta.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 107’. These include but are not limited to examples:
- Caesura: occurs when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line of verse, for example: “My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes.”
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines one and two as well as lines nine and ten.
- Alliteration: the repetition of words with the same consonant sound. For example, “wide world” in line two and “mortal moon” in line five.
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 107,’ the speaker begins by making an assertion about his future. He’s certain that there is nothing anyone could do to keep him away from his love. This includes his own fears as well as anyone who wants to speculate about the future. They won’t be able to “yet the lease of [his] true love control.” Everyone believed that the speaker and his true love would remain separate, but he knows this isn’t the case.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur’d
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
The poet uses flowery, metaphorical language in the next lines in order to convey how things have changed. The predictions that augurs, or prophets of doom, once made have not come to pass. Now they laugh at what they used to suggest, and peace reigns over the speaker’s world.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes;
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent
The speaker turns to talk about his beloved in the next lines of ‘Sonnet 107,’ describing how beautiful and renewed he looks. He’s enjoying the “drops of this most balmy time.” The speaker makes another assertion, saying that “Death to [him] subscribes.” This is a complicated way of saying the death surrendered to him. The speaker has found a way to ensure that he and his beloved are together forever, without Death’s hand interfering. He’s written this poem, and there the two can live (“in this poor rhyme”) while other people, “dull and speechless tribe,” or the illiterate, are controlled by death.
Now, presumably speaking to his love, he says that the Fair Youth will find his “monument” in this poem long after their time is over and “tyrants” reign and “tombs of brass are spent,” or have disappeared. He’s emphasizing how long this poem will live on (a prediction that has come true) and how it will allow the speaker and his lover to remain together.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Sonnet 103’ should also consider reading some other William Shakespeare poems. For example:
- ‘Sonnet 38’ – focuses on the importance of the speaker’s muse, the Fair Youth, and how integral the young man is to the poet’s writing.
- Sonnet 92’ – discusses the fact that the speaker is going to die happily, having just known the Fair Youth.
- ‘Sonnet 46’ – addressed to the Fair Youth and used the images of “eyes” and the “heart” to speak on the ways he is loved.
- ‘Sonnet 100‘- marks a turn in Shakespeare’s Fair Youth series in which he implores his muse to inspire him.