Sonnets for Advent 4: Sonnet 15

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Photo: www.uclan.ac.uk

Shakespeare is in part characterised by his genius for particularity, for noticing and bringing to life the individuality (what Gerard Manley Hokins would call the ‘thisness’) of a person, thought, place, or thing.

Sonnet 5 takes the idea of the ‘perfection’ of a single, ‘little moment’ as the starting point for a meditation on creativity and the purpose of existence.

Here is it read by Paul Prescott, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick.

Sonnet 15
When I consider everything that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth naught but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and checked even by the selfsame sky;
Vaunt in their youthful 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 new.

Find out more about Shakespeare’s Sonnets via our free on-line course www.gettingtoknowshakespeare.com

Listen to the same sonnet being read by a student at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

You might like to treat yourself to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s own, exclusive edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited by our Honorary President, Professor Stanley Wells C.B.E., and beautifully printed by Oxford University Press. Find out more 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

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