On Shakespeare, 1630 by John Milton


"On Shakespeare" is a poem written by John Milton. This poem, also known as Song On Shakespeare, was written in 1630. There is also a revised version of the poem written two years later which is entirely different. The 1632 version was written more as an epitaph and sometimes called "On the University Carrier who".

This poem is a sixteen line single stanza. It is written in the rhyme scheme AABBCDDEEFFGGHH. It is also written in iambic pentameter. Thus, this can be said to be written in heroic couplets. This is indeed a salute to Shakespeare by writing in iambic pentameter. However, I think, Milton should have went ahead and made it an Elizabethan sonnet instead.

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On Shakespeare

What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones
The labour of an age in pilèd stones?
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Has built thyself a livelong monument.
For whilst, to the shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou, our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving,
And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.

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Literary Movement
17th Century

Memory, Death