"a love 'which alters when it alteration'"
Two Lovers (1888)
Public DomainTwo Lovers (1888) - Credit: Vincent van Gogh

A line from Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, which considers the quality of true love.


Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixéd mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose Worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom:

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Sonnets are a particularly demanding form of poetry based on rigid rules about the number of syllables and lines they can have, and the rhyme scheme they must follow. Shakespeare created his own variation on the older Petrarchan form, introducing a rhyming couplet at the end of the poem.