‘Sonnet 25,’ also known as ‘Let those who are in favour with their stars ’ is number twenty-five of one hundred fifty-four sonnets that Shakespeare wrote over his lifetime. It is part of the well-loved Fair Youth sequence of sonnets (numbers one through one hundred twenty-six). In this particular poem, the poet makes references to the stars. Those which are physical and metaphorical, tapping into themes of the fleeting nature of fame and the strength of love.
The speaker addresses the Fair Youth telling him that the love they have is far more important than who the stars or sun are shining on at any one time. Those who have awards, power, and many friends only have them temporarily. Like a marigold flower, these people will die when the sun no longer shines on them. The love the Fair Youth and the speaker share is going to last forever. No one can take it away from them.
‘Sonnet 25’ by William Shakespeare is a fourteen-line sonnet that is structured in the form known as a “Shakespearean” or English sonnet. The poem is made up of three quatrains, or sets of four lines, and one concluding couplet, or set of two rhyming lines. In a singular departure from this poem, the poem does not follow the usually consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The “E” rhymes, which are perfect in every other sonnet do not in this original version of the text, rhyme. Aside from this, the sonnet is traditional in every other way.
It is written in iambic pentameter. This means that each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed and the second stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM.
As is common in William Shakespeare’s poems, the last two lines are a rhyming pair, known as a couplet. They often bring with them a turn or volta in the poem. They’re sometimes used to answer a question posed in the previous twelve lines, shift the perspective, or even change speakers.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 25’. These include but are not limited to metaphor, enjambment, and alliteration. The first, metaphor, is a comparison between two unlike things that does not use “like” or “as” is also present in the text. When using this technique a poet is saying that one thing is another thing, they aren’t just similar. For example, in the second quatrain the speaker compares the famous men and women around him to marigold flowers. They are beautiful while they are blooming but when the sun stops shining on them, they die.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “public” and “proud” in line two and “favorites” and “fair” in line five. Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the tradition between lines one and two and that between lines five and six.
Let those who are in favor with their stars
Of public honor and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlooked for joy in that I honor most.
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 25,’ the speaker begins by addressing his love, the Fair Youth, and explaining his current state of mind. He is considering fortune, fate, and even popularity. He tells the youth that others can “boast” about their favour with the stars. They can brag and rant about their public honours and their fortunes, but the speaker does not need to. He is not lucky enough to be part of this same group and get the same rewards. He has a different kind of joy, the joy of the Fair Youth’s love.
Great princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies burièd,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The second quatrain of ‘Sonnet 25’ refers to “Great princes” and couriers. They enjoy increased status and popularity because they are favoured, like marigold flowers. The popular might be beautiful now, the speaker says, but things are eventually going to change for them. They will, when the sun (fate, the king, other rich people) no longer shines on them, die off. The “frown” of someone more powerful will force them to die.
The painful warrior famousèd for worth,
After a thousand victories once foiled,
Is from the book of honor razèd quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled.
In the next four lines the speaker continues on to compare his own happiness to that of a great warrior. This warrior was famous for the “thousand victories” he won over his opponents, but eventually he is forgotten, as are his deeds. He is “razèd” from the book of honour.
Then happy I that love and am belovèd
Where I may not remove nor be removèd.
Unlike the warrior, the speaker is happy because he is loved, within his own heart and mind. He cannot be removed from this place nor can anyone take his love away from him. It is permanent in a way that fame never will be.