Sonnet for Advent 10: Sonnet 63

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Photo: flickriver.com

Photo: flickriver.com

In trying to conquer time, the poet first imagines time’s devastating effects. The ‘love’ of this sonnet (who is definitely male) will have his blood drained, be covered in wrinkles, lose all of his beauty, and will die. But ‘confounding age’s cruel knife’ (like Time’s scythe) will never be able to cut away the memory of the beloved’s beauty. And if we want to know where to find that memory, then we have only to look at the black lines of the Sonnet itself. There is something incarnational about this conceit and sentiment. The word itself takes on a heightened and fully fleshed-out reality; the black ink itself resonates with an ever-green vibrancy.

Against my love shall be as I am now,
With time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn;
When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travelled on to age’s steepy night,
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring:
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life.
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

Click on the post below to hear Sonnet 63 read by my colleague, Martin Smith – one of our Shakespeare Aloud! actors.

You might like to visit a similar Shakespeare for Advent project led by students at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson
  • Ian Steere

    There is more to be read into this sonnet than the conventional sentiments in which it is dressed. It has a bawdy, humorous aspect, evoking the poet’s grueling encounters with old prostitutes! Clues to this aspect appear with “hours”, a homophone of “whores” (and a pun which also features in Shakespeare’s plays) and “blood”, a synonym, in context, for semen (as is “the treasure of his spring”). See more at http://www.realshakespeare.com/hidden-song/sample-6

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