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William Shakespeare
The Sonnets




Sonnet CIV (104)

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey'd,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv'd.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty's summer dead.




Sonnet CIV (104)
(Modernised with Notes)

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed, (1)
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green. (2)
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which I think stands still,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv'd. (3)
For fear of which, hear this, you age unbred:
Before you were born was beauty's summer dead. (4)

NOTES

(1) "when first your eye I ey'd" means "when I first saw you".

(2) Three summers, winters, autumns and springs have passed since I first saw you i.e. three years have passed. You were then in your prime, and you still are.

(3) Yet you must be ageing, just too slowly to notice, as slowly as the hour hand moves on a clock (most Elizabethan clocks only had an hour hand).

(4) I fear then, people of the future (addressing readers not yet born), you will never see true beauty as it died with my friend before you were born.



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