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Sonnets of William Shakespeare

XV

When I consider everything that grows

Holds in perfection but a little moment,

That this huge state presenteth nought but shows

Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;

When I perceive that men as plants increase,

Cheered and check'd even by the self-same sky;

Vaunt in their useful sap, at height decrease,

And wear their brave state out of memory;

Then the conceit of this inconstant stay

Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,

Where wasteful time debateth with decay,

To change your day of youth to sullied night;

And, all in war with Time, for love of you,

As he takes from you, I engraft you anew.

 

XVI

But wherefore do not you a mightier way

Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?

And fortify yourself in your decay

With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?

Now stand you on the top of happy hours;

And many maiden gardens, yet unset,

With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers,

Much liker than your painted counterfeit:

So should the lines of life that life repair,

Which this, Time's pencil, or my pupil pen,

Neither in inward worth, nor outward fair,

Can make you live yourself in eyes of men.

To give away yourself keeps yourself still;

And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.

 

XVII

Who will believe my verse in time to come,

If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?

Though yet, Heaven knows, it is but as a tomb

Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.

If I could write the beauty of your eyes,

And in fresh numbers number all your graces,

The age to come would say, this poet lies,

Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.

So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,

Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue;

And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage,

And stretched metre of an antique song:

But were some child of yours alive that time,

You should live twice;—in it, and in my rhyme.

 

XVIII

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,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest;

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

 

XIX

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,

And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;

Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,

And burn the long-liv'd phoenix in her blood;

Make glad and sorry seasons, as thou fleets,

And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,

To the wide world, and all her fading sweets;

But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:

O carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,

Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;

Him in thy course untainted do allow,

For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.

Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,

My love shall in my verse ever live young young.

 

XX

A woman's face, with nature's own hand painted,

Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;

A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted

With shifting change, as is false woman's fashion;

An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,

Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;

A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,

Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls amazeth.

And for a woman wert thou first created;

Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,

And by addition me of thee defeated,

By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.

But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,

Mine be my love, and thy love's use their treasure.

 

XXI

So is it not with me as with that muse,

Stirr'd by a painted beauty to his verse;

Who heaven itself for ornament doth use,

And every fair with his fair doth rehearse;

Making a couplement of proud compare,

With earth and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems,

With April's first-born flowers, and all things rare

That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.

O let me, true in love, but truly write,

And then believe me, my love is as fair

As any mother's child, though not so bright

As those gold candles fix'd in heaven's air;

Let them say more that like of hearsay well;

I will not praise, that purpose not to sell.

 

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