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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 5


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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 5
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Sonnet 5



In this first of two linked sonnets, the poet compares the young man to summer and its flowers, doomed to be destroyed by winter. Even though summer inevitably dies, he argues, its flowers can be distilled into perfume. The beauty of the flowers and thereby the essence of summer are thus preserved.

Those hours that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell
Will play the tyrants to the very same
4And that unfair which fairly doth excel;
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there,
Sap checked with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
8Beauty o’er-snowed and bareness everywhere.
Then, were not summer’s distillation left
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
12Nor it nor no remembrance what it was.
 But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,
 Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.