Sonnet 24 (Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife)

Sonnet 24 (Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife) Summary

In a confident tone, the speaker (presumed to be a woman, as the poet dedicated the sonnet to her husband) likens the negativity and pain in the world to the sharpness of a knife. However, she believes that the danger of this sharpness can easily be avoided if she contains it, metaphorically speaking, within her loving hand. Love should replace pain in the world. By the fourth line, the speaker makes it clear that she is addressing another person (the listener). This listener is her beloved, assumed to be the speaker’s husband. She claims that their shared love can shield them from the world’s pain, and she relies on him without hesitation. He is key to her survival in this world.

On a larger scale, she implies that love is the answer to the suffering of all mankind. As the poem continues, the speaker insinuates that God plays a vital role in love. The love of her husband protects her from the harmful deeds and words of self-absorbed people who are driven by materialism. Divine love, on the other hand, protects all the living creatures of the world. Despite the many harmful people in the world, she is protected by the God-given love she shares with her husband.

Near the poem’s conclusion, the speaker makes direct references to nature and God. She describes the “lilies” of their lives as purely white. These flowers may symbolize purity, love, and the life cycle. She explains that these metaphorical lilies are deeply rooted in the ground and uniquely receptive to “dews,” or nourishment, from a heavenly source. If the lilies are meant to symbolize life and death, the speaker is suggesting that they are still alive and white and nourished by a divine source. As a symbol of love, they are nourished by God’s grace and are deeply rooted in solid, unshakeable ground. They are growing straight, out of the reach of man—protected from any person who might try to disrupt the life cycle or harm their love. The speaker concludes the poem by claiming that only God can make people rich or poor: that is, bless them with bounty or take away their fortunes. Just as He is the source of all the love and goodness in the world, He is also the only one who can determine what happens to his creatures.