Shakespeare Sonnet 104 Analysis: To me, fair friend, you never can be old

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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 104. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis. It is highly recommended to buy “The Monument” by Hank Whittemore, which is the best book on Shakespeare Sonnets.

Shakespeare Sonnet 104 (Original Text)

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen;
Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.
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Shakespeare Sonnet 104 Modern Text (Translation)

Shakespeare sonnet 104 Modern Text Translation

-via SparkNotes

Shakespeare Sonnet 104 Analysis

Shakespeare addresses his friend saying he will never appear old to him “To me, fair friend, you never can be old,” and that he looks the same when he first saw his beautiful eyes “For as you were when first your eye I eyed,” He says three seasons of winter have passed yet the friend’s beauty hasn’t changed “Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold” even though the winters have stripped the forest of their beauty of summer “Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;”

He says three seasons of spring have turned to autumn making everything yellow “Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned” and in the changing of the seasons he has seen “In process of the seasons have I seen;” thrice the sweet smell of April and the burning heat of June “Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,” and all this time has passed since he first saw his friend who still looks beautiful like a green of nature in bloom “Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green”

He compares the friends beauty to the hand of a clock “Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand, “that slowly passes by even though the person cannot notice it “Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;” and that the fresh color of the friends face still remains as if making time stand still “So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,” yet even though time is changing the friend, he cannot see it “Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.”

And he thinks this way out of fear that the friend will lose his looks and so he shouts out to future generations “For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:” saying that before he existed, beauty was dead “Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.”

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