Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems
pg 386 pg 387 3
- Editor’s Note1Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
- Editor’s Note2Now is the time that face should form another,
- Editor’s Note3Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest
- Editor’s Note4Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
- Editor’s Note5For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
- Editor’s Note6Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
- Editor’s Note7Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
- Editor’s Note8Of his self-love to stop posterity?
- 9Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
- Editor’s Note10Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
- Editor’s Note11So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
- Editor’s Note12Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
- Editor’s Note13 But if thou live rememb'red not to be,
- Editor’s Note14 Die single, and thine image dies with thee.
1 glass mirror; often a source of admonition (as in the popular collection A Mirror for Magistrates, which warned those in high estate how best to govern) or as an emblem of vanity. Compare Lucrece ll. 1758–64.
2 another another face. Q reads 'an other', extending the sense to 'an other person, someone completely new'.
3 fresh repair (a) appearance of newness; (b) recently renovated state
4 beguile cheat (charmingly)
unbless some mother deprive a woman of motherhood. Unbless is the first cited usage in OED.
5 uneared unploughed, untilled. Ploughing also carries sexual overtones in Antony 2.2.233–4: 'She made great Caesar lay his sword to bed. | He ploughed her, and she cropped.'
6 husbandry 'tillage or cultivation of the soil' (OED 2); with a pun on a sense not recognized by OED of 'your being her husband'. The pun is also active in Measure 1.4.42–3: 'even so her plenteous womb | Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry', and in Louis Le Roy, Of the Interchangeable Course or Variety of Things, trans. R[obert] A[shley] (1594), 130v: 'The husbandman hateth the fruitless ground, and the husband a wife that is barren.'
7 fond infatuated, foolish, silly
10 Calls back The expected sense 'recall, remember' is not cited in OED before 1850, although it must be in play here; the physical sense 'summons back into being' is, though, very strong. For the idea that a child is a mirror to its father see Lucrece ll.1758–64. Compare Erasmus: 'Old age cometh upon us all, will we or nill we, and this way nature provided for us, that we should wax young again in our children … For what man can be grieved that he is old when he seeth his own countenance, which he had being a child, to appear lively in his son?' (Wilson, 56). Erasmus says little about mothers, however: the suggestion that the friend resembles his mother anticipates the androgyny of 20.2.
10 April proverbially fresh (Dent A310)
11 windows of thine age aged eyes; eyes clouded with age. There may also be an allusion to lattice windows, criss-crossed with lead, as in A Lover's Complaint l.14.
12 Despite of wrinkles Batman upon Bartholomew (1582), fos. 18v–19r, records that 'the sight of old men is not sharp, because their skins are rivelled [wrinkled]' which is a rough paraphrase of Aristotle: 'the reason why old people do not have keen vision is that the skin in the eyes, like that elsewhere, gets wrinkled and thicker with age' (De Generatione Animalium 780a, 31–3). The lines exploit an analogy between the wrinkled surface of an aged eye and the irregularity of Elizabethan glass.
13 rememb'red Q's spelling, 'remembred', embeds the word 'bred' in remembering.
14 image (a) physical appearance (as reflected in a mirror); (b) embodiment (such as a child)