I do not receive my knowledge or make my decisions by the stars;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
Though I have enough training in astrology to do so,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
I cannot predict good luck or bad,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality;
Or plagues, or famine, or the weather;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Nor can I say what will happen at any given moment in our daily lives,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Alloting to each man his thunder, rain, and wind [i.e., He cannot fortell our personal troubles],
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
Or even tell princes if things will go well for them,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
By frequent omens that I see in the heavens:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
But from your eyes alone do I derive my knowledge,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
And they are my constant stars, in which I read such art [gain such knowledge]
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
That I see truth and beauty will live together in harmony,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
If you would only turn your focus from yourself to creating a child;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Or else this is my prophecy:
Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date.
That truth and beauty will all end when you die.
my judgement pluck (1): obtain my knowledge.
have astronomy (2): know astrology.
dearths (4): famine.
pointing (6): appointing.
oft predict (8): frequent predictions.
art (10): knowledge.
As (11): That.
If...convert (12): i.e., If [your focus] would turn from yourself to having children ('to store').
In Sonnet 14 the poet first reveals that it is not through science ("astronomy"), his own judgement, or personal experience that he obtains his knowledge about life and love -- all that he knows comes simply and only from his lover ("But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive"). And the primary lesson the poet learns from his lover's eyes is that, if his lover refuses to create a child to carry on his (or her) lineage, all the ideals embodied by his lover will cease to exist. This is yet another variation on Shakespeare's theme of the necessity of procreation that dominates the early sonnets. For much more on this theme, please see the commentary for the other sonnets (1-18) and the article How to Analyze a Shakespearean Sonnet.
Holden, Anthony. William Shakespeare: His Life and Work. Boston: Little, Brown, 2002.
Lee, Sidney, Sir. A Life of Shakespeare. New York: Macmillan, 1916.
Shakespeare, William. The Sonnets. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Cambridge: UP, 1996.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. A.L. Rowse. London: Macmillan, 1964.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. Tucker Brooke. London: Oxford UP: 1936.
Shakespeare, William. The Works of Shakespeare. Ed. John Dover Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969.
Tucker, T.G. The Sonnets of Shakespeare. Cambridge: UP, 1924.
How to Cite this Article
Mabillard, Amanda. An Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 14. Shakespeare Online. 2000. (day/month/year you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/14detail.html >.