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.
Paraphrase of Sonnet 14
I do not receive my knowledge or make my decisions by the stars;
Though I have enough training in astrology to do so,
I cannot predict good luck or bad,
Or plagues, or famine, or the weather;
Nor can I say what will happen at any given moment in our daily lives,
Alloting to each man his thunder, rain, and wind [i.e., he cannot fortell our personal troubles],
Or even tell princes if things will go well for them,
By frequent omens that I see in the heavens:
But from your eyes alone do I derive my knowledge,
And they are my constant stars, in which I read such art [gain such knowledge]
That I see truth and beauty will live together in harmony,
If you would only turn your focus from yourself to creating a child;
Or else this is my prophecy:
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.
How to Cite this Article
Mabillard, Amanda. An Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 14. Shakespeare Online. 14. May. 2010. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/14detail.html >.
Habicht, Werner. Shakespeare's Universe: Renaissance Ideas and Conventions. New York: Scolar Press, 1996.
Shakespeare, William. The Works of Shakespeare. Ed. John Dover Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969.
Did You Know? ... "Among the minor questions relating to the Sonnets which have been the subject of no little controversy the only one that seems to claim notice here is the identity of the "rival poet" of Sonnets 79-86. Spenser, Marlowe, Drayton, Nash, Daniel, and others have been suggested by the critics, and Mr. Lee adds Barnabe Barnes, "a poetic panegyrist of Southampton and a prolific sonneteer, who was deemed by contemporary critics certain to prove a great poet." On the whole, Chapman, whom Professor Minto was the first to suggest, and whom Dowden, Furnivall, and many others have endorsed, is most likely to have been the poet whom Shakespeare had in mind." W. J. Rolfe. Read on....