Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sonnet LXVIII (68)

Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
When beauty lived and died as flowers do now,
Before the bastard signs of fair were born,
Or durst inhabit on a living brow;
Before the golden tresses of the dead,
The right of sepulchres, were shorn away,
To live a second life on second head;
Ere beauty's dead fleece made another gay:
In him those holy antique hours are seen,
Without all ornament, itself and true,
Making no summer of another's green,
Robbing no old to dress his beauty new;
And him as for a map doth Nature store,
To show false Art what beauty was of yore.


1. The map of days outworn. "This pattern of the worn-out age," used of the groom inLucrece, has been compared, as also "Thou map of honour" in King Richard II., Act v. sc. i, line 12. 

3. These bastard signs of fair. This mere artificial appearance of beauty. Bastard. As not truly derived from Nature. 6. The right of sepulchres. Which should have been consigned to the sepulchre, and have remained there. The following passage from the Merchant of Venice, Act iii. sc. 2, lines 92-96, has been justly compared:
"So are those crisped snaky golden locks,
Which make such wanton gambols with the wind,
Upon supposed fairness, often known
To be the dowry of a second head,
The skull that bred them in the sepulchre."

8. Ere beauty's dead fleece, &c., appears to express in other words what had been already said. 

10. Itself would seem to be equivalent to "nature itself." 

12. Robbing no old, &c. These words and the two lines preceding may be taken to explain the "holy" of line 9, which can scarcely be used of moral purity.

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