Shakespeare’s Sonnet #97 “How like a winter hath my absence been”


How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

Reading of Sonnet 97

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

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen,
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time removed was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widowed wombs after their lords’ decease.
Yet this abundant issue seemed to me
But hope of orphans and unfathered fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

Simplified Modern English Translation

This separation has been like a winter to me,
from you, who are the greatest thing in my life!
I have felt such cold, seen such darkness,
and experienced the loneliness of December everywhere.
And yet our time apart was actually summer time,
with teeming harvests being gathered
bearing the plentiful growth from a fruitful earth,
like a woman with child after her husband’s death.
Yet all this abundant harvest seemed to me
as lacking in some way, since you were not here as the co-creator,
for the pleasure of summer depends on you,
and since you are away the very birds are silent;
or if they do sing, it is with such gloom
that the leaves begin to turn, dreading the winter’s approach.

Text from Original 1609 Quarto

Transcription courtesy of University of Virginia Library:

How like a Winter hath my absence beene
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting yeare?
What freezings haue I felt, what darke daies seene?
What old Decembers barenesse euery where?
And yet this time remou’d was sommers time,
The teeming Autumne big with ritch increase,
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,
Like widdowed wombes after their Lords decease:
Yet this aboundant issue seem’d to me,
But hope of Orphans, and vn-fathered fruite,
For Sommer and his pleasures waite on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute.
Or if they sing, tis with so dull a cheere,
That leaues looke pale, dreading the Winters neere.


 Posted by at 12:02 pm

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