Reading of Sonnet 2
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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 forty winters shall besiege thy brow
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed of small worth held.
Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use
If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,”
Proving his beauty by succession thine.
This were to be new made when thou art old
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.
Simplified Modern English Translation
When forty years shall pass and you are old
and your smooth skin is furrowed with wrinkles,
your former good looks, now admired by all,
will no longer have much value.
Then, when someone asks about your famed beauty,
and whether it still exists within you,
to say that you still retain it in your aged self
would be shameful and pitiful.
It would be a much more praiseworthy legacy to your beauty
if you could answer “This child of mine
shows that my essence lives on despite my age.”
This would provide proof of your beauty, since he is a reflection of you.
This is how you preserve yourself as you get old
and retain the warm blood of youth despite old age.
Text from Original 1609 Quarto
Transcription courtesy of University of Virginia Library:
When fortie Winters shall beseige thy brow,
And digge deep trenches in thy beauties field,
Thy youthes proud liuery so gaz’d on now,
Wil be a totter’d weed of smal worth held:
Then being askt, where all thy beautie lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty daies;
To say within thine owne deepe sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftlesse praise.
How much more praise deseru’d thy beauties vse,
If thou couldst answere this faire child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse
Proouing his beautie by succession thine.
This were to be new made when thou art ould,
And see thy blood warme when thou feel’st it could.