Shakespeare Sonnet 126 Analysis: O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy pow’r

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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 126. 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 126 (Original Text)

O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy pow’r
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 minute kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure.
Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.
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Shakespeare Sonnet 126 Modern Text (Translation)

Shakespeare Sonnet 126 Modern Text translation

-via SparkNotes

Shakespeare Sonnet 126 Analysis

The poet addresses his friend the fair youth calling him a lovely boy who has the power “O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy pow’r” over time and is impervious to times ability to destroy things “Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle hour,”He tells the youth he has grown even more beautiful with age ‘Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st’” and that as he the poet withers with age, the fair lord instead grows more handsome “Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow’st—”

He says if nature who has the power to destroy things “If nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,” does not make the lord look old despite him ageing “As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,”Then nature does it for her own reasons “She keeps thee to this purpose: that her skill” which are to shame and disgrace time and destroy its effects of aging “May time disgrace, and wretched minute kill.”

Yet he asks the fair lord to fear nature in spite of him being favored by her “Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;” because she may try to preserve the fair lord but she cannot keep him as a treasured object forever “She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure.”

Because although she can delay the effects of aging, she will have to answer her actions “Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,” and the only way to repay her debt t time is to give up the fair lord. “And her quietus is to render thee.”

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