William Shakespeare
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Sonnet Cxxvi

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O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold Time's fickle glass, his sickle, hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow'st;
If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure!
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure:
Her audit, though delay'd, answer'd must be,
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Fabrizio Frosini 10 January 2016
Dante Gabriel Rosetti wrote in 1882: 'There should be an essential reform in the printing of Shakespeare's sonnets. After sonnet CXXV should occur the words End of Part I. The couplet piece, numbered CXXVI, should be called Epilogue to Part I. Then, before CXXVII, should be printed Part II. After CLII should be put End of Part II - and the last two sonnets should be called Epilogue to Part II.'
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Fabrizio Frosini 10 January 2016
A Renaissance reader would perhaps be expected to discover these points by an attentive reading of the sonnets, and by knowing what to look for within the conventions of sonneteering. It is in fact generally agreed nowadays that this is a farewell sonnet, and that it brings to a close the main group of sonnets addressed to the fair youth. It does not follow the pattern of the other sonnets, being a series of six rhyming couplets, although it still gives the overall impression of being constructed in quatrains, and of having a concluding couplet. The reason for the bracketed blank lines in the original publication is not known.
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Fabrizio Frosini 10 January 2016
The poet addresses the youth in loving terms and surveys the years of his growing older. It appears that his ageing has augmented his own beauty, and by doing so it has also emphasised the deterioration and decay of his admirers. Nature has been in love with him and has sequestered him away from the ravages of time. Yet she cannot do so forever, and soon must yield him up and give an account of how she has used her treasure. The settling of the account is perhaps something to be dreaded, and the poet is solicitous for his beloved. www shakespeares-sonnets.com
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Fabrizio Frosini 05 January 2016
- 'My lovely boy': It appears thus implied that Mr. W. H. is still a youth. - 'Time's fickle glass': time's ever-shifting and changing hour-glass. - 'His sickle hour': his hour which, like a sickle, cuts off all things beautiful - an allusion to the scythe or sickle with which the figure of Time is represented as armed. - 'Who hast by waning grown': whose change with the advance of time has been a growth in beauty.
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Fabrizio Frosini 05 January 2016
This Sonnet may probably have been designed as a conclusion to the whole of the first series. The poet's friend is warned that though Nature has hitherto preserved his beauty, and successfully resisted Time and Decay, yet that she has but a limited power, and that she must by-and-by inevitably surrender.
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