William Shakespeare

Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems

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pg 41718

  • Editor’s Note1Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
  • Editor’s Note2Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
  • 3Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
  • Editor’s Note4And summer's lease hath all too short a date;
  • 5Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
  • Editor’s Note6And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
  • Editor’s Note7And every fair from fair sometime declines,
  • Editor’s Note8By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed:
  • 9But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
  • Editor’s Note10Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
  • Editor’s Note11Nor shall Death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
  • Editor’s Note12When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
  • 13  So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
  • Editor’s Note14  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
pg 418

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 a summer's day was proverbially perfect (cf. Dent S967).
Editor’s Note
2 temperate (a) moderate, even-tempered; (b) 'neither too hot nor too cold; of mild and equable temperature' (OED 3a)
Editor’s Note
4 lease temporary period of legal possession, limited by a date, or period of expiry. See 13.5 and 6 nn.
Editor’s Note
6 complexion (a) 'Countenance, face' (OED 4c); (b) 'Colour, visible aspect, look, appearance' (OED 5 transf.), as in Richard II 3.2.190–1: 'Men judge by the complexion of the sky | The state and inclination of the day.'
Editor’s Note
7 fair from … declines every beautiful thing loses its beauty; playing on the 'fairness' of the sun's gold complexion.
Editor’s Note
8 untrimmed 'deprived of trimness or elegance; stripped of ornament' (OED 1; first cited usage). Cf. K. John 3.1.134–5: 'the devil tempts thee here | In likeness of a new untrimmèd bride', where it has been suggested that the term means 'undevirginated' (Partridge) or 'recently divested of her wedding-gown' (Schmidt). 'Deprived of the ornaments of youth' would fit both contexts, as well as tallying with the influential passage from Revelation 21: 2: 'And I John saw the holy city new Jerusalem come down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride trimmed for her husband.'
Editor’s Note
10 lose possession … ow'st Nor will you lose control over the beauty which you own absolutely and for ever. This contrasts with the impermanent lease of l. 4 above, and does so by emphatically linking possession with ownership. These terms are not synonymous in law. Possession (especially when applied to land or property) means occupancy or enjoyment of a piece of property in a manner which brings with it the right to exercise control over it, but it does not necessarily imply ownership; hence to enjoy something fully one must have both ownership and permanent possession of it.
Editor’s Note
11 wand'rest … shade alluding to Psalm 23: 4: 'Yea, though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me'.
Editor’s Note
12 eternal lines 'enduring lines of verse' and 'perpetual genealogical descent'; see 16.9 note.
to time thou grow'st you become a living part of time. To grow to is 'to be an organic or integral part of' (OED 3b), as in 2 Henry IV 1.2.85–90: 'Ser. I pray you, sir, then set your knighthood and your soldiership aside … Fal. I lay aside that which grows to me?' See Venus l. 540. The addressee of the poem is like a shoot grafted into time's substance, and continues to live through either the poet's lines or his own bloodline.
Editor’s Note
14 this 'this sonnet'
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