Shakespeare, William: 1564-1616

Sonnets - Sonnets 1 - 30

  • Sonnet 1
     
    From fairest creatures we desire increase,
    That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
    But as the riper should by time decease,
    His tender heir might bear his memory:

    But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
    Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
    Making a famine where abundance lies,
    Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:

    Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
    And only herald to the gaudy spring,
    Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
    And tender churl mak'st waste in niggarding:

        Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
        To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary and Summary
    Commentary from Harvard
    Translation and Analysis
    Modern Text

    Sonnet 2
     
    When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
    And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
    Thy youth's proud livery so gazed on now,
    Will be a tatter'd weed of small worth held:

    Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
    Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
    To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
    Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.

    How much more praise deserv'd thy beauty's use,
    If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
    Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,'
    Proving his beauty by succession thine!

        This were to be new made when thou art old,
        And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Translation and Analysis

    Sonnet 3
     
    Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
    Now is the time that face should form another,
    Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
    Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.

    For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
    Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
    Or who is he so fond will be the tomb,
    Of his self-love to stop posterity?

    Thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee
    Calls back the lovely April of her prime,
    So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
    Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.

        But if thou live remember'd not to be,
        Die single and thine image dies with thee.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Translation and Analysis

    Sonnet 4
     
    Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
    Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
    Nature's bequest gives nothing but doth lend,
    And being frank she lends to those are free.

    Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
    The bounteous largess given thee to give?
    Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
    So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?

    For having traffic with thyself alone,
    Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive.
    Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone,
    What acceptable audit canst thou leave?

        Thy unused beauty must be tomb'd with thee,
        Which, used, lives th' executor to be.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 5
     
    Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
    The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
    Will play the tyrants to the very same
    And that unfair which fairly doth excel:

    For never-resting time leads summer on
    To hideous winter and confounds him there;
    Sap cheque'd with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
    Beauty o'ersnow'd and bareness every where:

    Then, were not summer's distillation left,
    A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
    Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
    Nor it nor no remembrance what it was:

        But flowers distill'd though they with winter meet,
        Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 6
     
    Then let not winter's ragged hand deface,
    In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
    Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
    With beauty's treasure ere it be self-killed.

    That use is not forbidden usury,
    Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
    That's for thy self to breed another thee,
    Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;

    Ten times thy self were happier than thou art,
    If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
    Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
    Leaving thee living in posterity?

        Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
        To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 7
     
    Lo! in the orient when the gracious light
    Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
    Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
    Serving with looks his sacred majesty;

    And having climb'd the steep-up heavenly hill,
    Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
    Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
    Attending on his golden pilgrimage:



    But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,
    Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
    The eyes, 'fore duteous, now converted are
    From his low tract, and look another way:

        So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon
        Unlooked on diest unless thou get a son.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 8
     
    Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
    Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
    Why lovest thou that which thou receivest not gladly,
    Or else receivest with pleasure thine annoy?

    If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
    By unions married, do offend thine ear,
    They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
    In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.

    Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
    Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
    Resembling sire and child and happy mother
    Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing:

        Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
        Sings this to thee: 'thou single wilt prove none.'

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by James Parmiter (Real)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 9
     
    Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
    That thou consum'st thy self in single life?
    Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
    The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;

    The world will be thy widow and still weep
    That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
    When every private widow well may keep
    By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind:

    Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
    Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
    But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
    And kept unused the user so destroys it.

        No love toward others in that bosom sits
        That on himself such murd'rous shame commits.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 10
     
    For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any,
    Who for thy self art so unprovident.
    Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
    But that thou none lov'st is most evident:

    For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,
    That 'gainst thy self thou stick'st not to conspire,
    Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
    Which to repair should be thy chief desire.

    O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
    Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
    Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
    Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:

        Make thee another self for love of me,
        That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 11
     
    As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest
    In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
    And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestowest
    Thou mayst call thine when thou from youth convertest.

    Herein lives wisdom, beauty and increase:
    Without this, folly, age and cold decay:
    If all were minded so, the times should cease
    And threescore year would make the world away.

    Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
    Harsh featureless and rude, barrenly perish:
    Look, whom she best endow'd she gave the more;
    Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish:

        She carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby
        Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 12
     
    When I do count the clock that tells the time,
    And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
    When I behold the violet past prime,
    And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;

    When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
    Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
    And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
    Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,

    Then of thy beauty do I question make,
    That thou among the wastes of time must go,
    Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
    And die as fast as they see others grow;

        And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
        Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by James Parmiter (Real)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 13
     
    O! that you were your self; but, love, you are
    No longer yours, than you your self here live:
    Against this coming end you should prepare,
    And your sweet semblance to some other give:

    So should that beauty which you hold in lease
    Find no determination; then you were
    Yourself again, after yourself's decease,
    When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.

    Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
    Which husbandry in honour might uphold,
    Against the stormy gusts of winter's day
    And barren rage of death's eternal cold?

        O! none but unthrifts. Dear my love, you know,
        You had a father: let your son say so.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 14
     
    Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
    And yet methinks I have astronomy,
    But not to tell of good or evil luck,
    Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality;

    Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
    Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
    Or say with princes if it shall go well,
    By oft predict that I in heaven find:

    But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
    And, constant stars, in them I read such art
    As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
    If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;

        Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
        Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Translation and Analysis

    Sonnet 15
     
    When I consider every thing that grows
    Holds in perfection but a little moment,
    That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
    Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;

    When I perceive that men as plants increase,
    Cheered and cheque'd even by the self-same 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.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by James Parmiter (Real)
    Translation and Analysis

    Sonnet 16
     
    But wherefore do not you a mightier way
    Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
    And fortify your self in your decay
    With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?

    Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
    And many maiden gardens, yet unset,
    With virtuous wish would bear you living flowers,
    Much liker than your painted counterfeit:

    So should the lines of life that life repair,
    Which this, Time's pencil, or my pupil pen,
    Neither in inward worth nor outward fair,
    Can make you live your self in eyes of men.

        To give away yourself, keeps yourself still,
        And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (Real)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 17
     
    Who will believe my verse in time to come,
    If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
    Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
    Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.

    If I could write the beauty of your eyes
    And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
    The age to come would say 'This poet lies:
    Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'

    So should my papers yellow'd with their age
    Be scorn'd like old men of less truth than tongue,
    And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
    And stretched metre of an antique song:

        But were some child of yours alive that time,
        You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.

    Print the sonnet from new window
       Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Bertram Selwyn
    Commentary

    Sonnet 18
     
    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:

    But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
    Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,

        So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
        So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

    Print the sonnet from new window
       Listen to the Sonnet
    read by James Parmiter (Real)
    read by Richard Stevens (Real)
    read by Garrison Keillor (Real)
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (Real)
    read by Michael Gearin Tosh (Real)
    read by David Gilmour
    read by John Gielgud
    Commentary
    Explanation
    Listen also to Love Poetry - Shakespeare's Sonnets by Michael Gearin Tosh
    See Teaching for more information.

    Sonnet 19
     
    Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,
    And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
    Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
    And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;

    Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
    And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
    To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
    But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:

    O, carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
    Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
    Him in thy course untainted do allow
    For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.

        Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
        My love shall in my verse ever live young.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Translation and Analysis

    Sonnet 21
     
    So is it not with me as with that Muse,
    Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
    Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
    And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,

    Making a couplement of proud compare
    With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems,
    With April's first-born flowers, and all things rare,
    That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.

    O! let me, true in love, but truly write,
    And then believe me, my love is as fair
    As any mother's child, though not so bright
    As those gold candles fixed in heaven's air:

        Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
        I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Translation and Analysis

    Sonnet 22
     
    My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
    So long as youth and thou are of one date;
    But when in thee time's furrows I behold,
    Then look I death my days should expiate.

    For all that beauty that doth cover thee
    Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
    Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
    How can I then be elder than thou art?

    O, therefore, love, be of thyself so wary
    As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
    Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
    As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.

        Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain;
        Thou gavest me thine, not to give back again.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 24
     
    Mine eye hath played the painter and hath stelled,
    Thy beauty's form in table of my heart,
    My body is the frame wherein 'tis held,
    And perspective it is best painter's art.

    For through the painter must you see his skill,
    To find where your true image pictured lies,
    Which in my bosom's shop is hanging still,
    That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes:

    Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done,
    Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
    Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
    Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;

        Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art,
        They draw but what they see, know not the heart.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Bertram Selwyn
    Commentary
    See Teaching for more information.

    Sonnet 25
     
    Let those who are in favour with their stars,
    Of public honour and proud titles boast,
    Whilst I whom fortune of such triumph bars
    Unlooked for joy in that I honour most;

    Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread,
    But as the marigold at the sun's eye,
    And in themselves their pride lies buried,
    For at a frown they in their glory die.

    The painful warrior famoused for fight,
    After a thousand victories once foiled,
    Is from the book of honour razed quite,
    And all the rest forgot for which he toiled:

        Then happy I that love and am beloved
        Where I may not remove nor be removed.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Bertram Selwyn
    Commentary

    Sonnet 27
     
    Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
    The dear respose for limbs with travel tired,
    But then begins a journey in my head
    To work my mind, when body's work's expired.

    For then my thoughts - from far where I abide -
    Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
    And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
    Looking on darkness which the blind do see.

    Save that my soul's imaginary sight
    Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
    Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night
    Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.

        Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
        For thee, and for my self, no quiet find.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 28
     
    How can I then return in happy plight,
    That am debarr'd the benefit of rest?
    When day's oppression is not eased by night,
    But day by night, and night by day, oppress'd?

    And each, though enemies to either's reign,
    Do in consent shake hands to torture me;
    The one by toil, the other to complain
    How far I toil, still farther off from thee.

    I tell the day, to please them thou art bright
    And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven:
    So flatter I the swart-complexion'd night,
    When sparkling stars twire not thou gild'st the even.

        But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer
        And night doth nightly make grief's strength seem stronger.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Bertram Selwyn
    Commentary

    Sonnet 29
     
    When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
    I all alone beweep my outcast state,
    And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
    And look upon myself, and curse my fate,

    Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
    Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
    Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
    With what I most enjoy contented least;

    Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
    Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
    Like to the lark at break of day arising
    From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

        For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
        That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by James Parmiter (Real)
    read by John Feather (RealPlayer)
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    read by Christine Testman (mp3)
    Commentary

    Sonnet 30
     
    When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
    I summon up remembrance of things past,
    I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
    And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:

    Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
    For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
    And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
    And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:

    Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
    And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
    The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
    Which I new pay as if not paid before.

        But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
        All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

    Print the sonnet from new window
      Listen to the Sonnet
    read by Danielle Mann (RealPlayer)
    read by Walter Rufus Eagles (RealPlayer)
    Commentary 1
    Commentary from Harvard
    Translation and Analysis