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Friday, December 2, 2011

When Forty Winters Shall Besiege Thy Brow

Each Friday we provide the link to the blog that is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. At that site you can find the links to the many other blogs that are posting poems (new and old), discussions of poems, and reviews of poetry books.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Carol. You can visit her here at Carol’s Corner.

(The Cobbe Portrait of Shakespeare,
so-called because it was found in the
collection of the Anglo-Irish Cobbe
family in 2006, is believed to be the
only portrait of the playwright painted
in his lifetime. The Latin inscription
Principum amicitias! or “Friendship
of Princes” alludes to a passage in
Horace’s Odes.)

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) did not invent the English version of the sonnet but he so perfected it that it carries his name. This form of the sonnet is divided into three quatrains in abab, cdcd, efef rhyme, which set out three clear statements. The poem concludes with an epigrammatic or pointed couplet in gg rhyme.

The verse below is the second of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets that are not in his plays. It shows to great effect his wit and skill. He praises the young man’s youth and beauty, only to warn him that they will not last. He then urges him to have a son who will inherit from him his appealing qualities.


When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gaz’d on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask’d, 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.


Joyce Ray said...

Thanks, Maria, for the sonnet and the portrait. Forty winters, eh? I'm glad our general life expectancy has lengthened considerably.

Mary Lee said...

Hmm...a poem to give me pause on my birthday weekend as I pass into the time of my life when more than 50 "winters shall besiege thy/my brow/And dig deep trenches in thy/my beauty's field..."

And me with no children (of my own, but hundreds in my fourth grade classes over the years) to make me new...

Interesting to read this right after david elzey's meditation on turning 50...

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thank you, Maria... and interesting for me as well, as I'm marching near the end of those 40s... Love your celebration of sonnets here, and the poem you shared on Mary Lee's post, too!