Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems
pg 510 pg 511 65
- Editor’s Note1Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
- Editor’s Note2But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
- Editor’s Note3How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
- Editor’s Note4Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
- Editor’s Note5O how shall summer's honey breath hold out
- Editor’s Note6Against the wrackful siege of batt'ring days,
- Editor’s Note7When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
- Editor’s Note8Nor gates of steel so strong, but time decays?
- 9O fearful meditation; where, alack,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus10Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
- 11Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus12Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
- 13 O none, unless this miracle have might,
- Editor’s Note14 That in black ink my love may still shine bright.
1 Since since there is neither
2 o'ersways combines physical and legal supremacy: To exercise sway over, rule over, govern' (OED 1); and 'In reference to physical qualities: To overpower by superior strength or intensity' (OED 1c).
3 rage destructive energy
hold a plea successfully present a legal suit
4 action combines the general sense of 'power to move' with the specific legal sense 'legal process; the right to raise such process' (OED 7a).
5 hold out 'To maintain resistance, remain unsubdued; to continue, endure, persist, last' (OED s.v. 'hold' 41j), with a strong military flavour
6 wrackful destructive
batt'ring The days are like battering rams.
7 impregnable invincible, proof against attack
8 but time decays? but time destroys (the gates)
10 chest] q quest conj. Theobald in Malone
10 Shall … lie hid? The friend is the treasured possession of Time, which cannot be prevented from returning to his coffers. Malone and Theobald found the idea of hiding something from a chest objectionable, hence their emendation to 'quest'. Time, though, simply wants to have his possession, the friend, locked away securely, as the poet had done in 52.
12 Or … of] malone; Or … Or q Or … o'er capell
12 spoil continues the metaphor of sieging, via OED 1: 'Goods, esp. such as are valuable, taken from an enemy or captured city in time of war'.
14 my love my beloved, although the sense 'my affection' cannot be excluded