Reading of Sonnet 106
Click on video to play
The images in the YouTube video are from an original 1609 edition of Shake-speares Sonnets held by the British Library. It is one of only thirteen copies in existence. Images courtesy of the Octavo Corporation.
Modernized Spelling and Punctuation
When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have expressed
Even such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And, for they looked but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing.
For we, which now behold these present days,
Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
Simplified Modern English Translation
When in the writings of time gone by
I see descriptions of the fairest men and women,
and beauty inspiring beautiful poetry
in praise of lovely ladies and handsome knights,
then, in their descriptions of the sweet elements of beauty:
of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I perceive that the old poets were trying to depict
the beauty that you now possess.
So all their praises are nothing but prophecies
of this our time, all you foreshadowing;
and because they looked merely with prophetic eyes,
they did not have the skill enough to portray you accurately.
Because even we, who can actually see you in person,
have eyes to behold, but lack adequate language to praise.
Text from Original 1609 Quarto
Transcription courtesy of University of Virginia Library:
When in the Chronicle of wasted time,
I see discriptions of the fairest wights,
And beautie making beautifull old rime,
In praise of Ladies dead, and louely Knights,
Then in the blazon of sweet beauties best,
Of hand, of foote, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique Pen would haue exprest,
Euen such a beauty as you maister now.
So all their praises are but prophesies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring,
And for they look’d but with deuining eyes,
They had not still¹ enough your worth to sing:
For we which now behold these present dayes,
Haue eyes to wonder, but lack toungs to praise.
Wording differences between the text and the reading are noted with a superscript: