Shakespeare’s sonnets were first published on this day in 1609, most likely without Shakespeare’s permission (books by this author). The book contained 154 sonnets, all but two of which had never been published before. Shakespeare (or perhaps the publisher Thomas Thorpe) dedicated the collection to “Mr. W.H.” whose identity has never been known. The poems are about love, sex, politics, youth, and the mysterious “Dark Lady,” and they have given young lovers and the hopelessly romantic words for the ages:
Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, a
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade,
Nor loose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his
When in eternal lines to time though grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.