Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.
The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show
Of mouthed graves will give thee memory;
Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
Time's thievish progress to eternity.
Look, what thy memory can not contain
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
Those children nursed, deliver'd from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book.
The view is probably correct which takes this and the
two preceding Sonnets as forming a distinct group, and which infers
that when they were sent to Mr. W. H. there was sent with them
a present consisting of a mirror, a sundial, and a manuscript-book,
each of these being in some sort symbolical, betokening the decay
of beauty, the never-resting progress of time, and the antidote to
both time and decay to be found in literary composition.
1. Wear. Q. "were."
3. The vacant leaves. That is, as I think, the whole of the leaves of the
manuscript-book. I do not feel able to accept the view of Dowden that
Shakespeare sent to Mr. W. H. a manuscript-book partially vacant, as an
intimation of unwillingness to write any more Sonnets, on account of the
favour shown to the rival-poet.
4. This learning may'st thou taste. This lesson may'st thou derive.
5-12. The lesson is, that while wrinkles seen in the mirror foretoken
the approach of Death and the shadow stealing round the dial, the
"thievish progress of Time," security against oblivion may be found by
committing thought to writing.
6. Mouthed graves. A stronger expression than the "lines," "parallels,"
and "trenches," which had been previously used of wrinkles; and this is
in accordance with the deeper melancholy of these later Sonnets.
10. Blanks. I have adopted the emendation of Theobald. Q. has
"blacks," which could only be defended on the supposition of a note-book
whose leaves were prepared with some black substance. Waste will equal
the "vacant" of l.3.
11. Notice that literary children, "children of the brain," have taken
the place of the natural children of the first Sonnets. This is in accord
with the deepened melancholy.
12. To take a new acquaintance. They will become "objective," and
objects of great interest.
13. These offices. "The delivery from the brain," and "nursing" or
moulding into due form of these literary children, will, as often as you
look at them with parental care and affection, &c.
How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/77.html >.
Sonnet Basics ... A sonnet is in verse form and has fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. Shakespeare's sonnets follow the pattern "abab cdcd efef gg", and Petrarch's sonnets follow the pattern "abba abba cdecde." All the lines in iambic pentameter have five feet, consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. For a more detailed look at iambic pentameter with examples, please click here.