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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 59


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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 59
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Sonnet 59



The poet here plays with the idea of history as cyclical and with the proverb “There is nothing new under the sun.” If he could go back in time, he writes, he could see how the beloved’s beauty was praised in the distant past and thus judge whether the world had progressed, regressed, or stayed the same.

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, laboring for invention, bear amiss
4The second burden of a former child.
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
8Since mind at first in character was done,
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composèd wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whe’er better they,
12Or whether revolution be the same.
 O, sure I am the wits of former days
 To subjects worse have given admiring praise.