Sonnets 61–70

Sonnet 61
Is it thy will, thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night?
Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?
Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee
So far from home into my deeds to pry,
To find out shames and idle hours in me,
The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?
O, no! thy love, though much, is not so great:
It is my love that keeps mine eye awake:
Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,
To play the watchman ever for thy sake:
     For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
     From me far off, with others all too near.

Sonnet 62
Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul, and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.
But when my glass shows me myself indeed
Beated and chopp'd with tanned antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity.
     'Tis thee,--myself,--that for myself I praise,
     Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

Sonnet 63
Against my love shall be as I am now,
With Time's injurious hand crush'd and o'erworn;
When hours have drain'd his blood and fill'd his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travell'd on to age's steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he's king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age's cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love's beauty, though my lover's life:
     His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
     And they shall live, and he in them still green.

Sonnet 64
When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-raz'd,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded, to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate--
That Time will come and take my love away.
     This thought is as a death which cannot choose
     But weep to have, that which it fears to lose.

Sonnet 65
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O! how shall summer's honey breath hold out,
Against the wrackful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
     O! none, unless this miracle have might,
     That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Sonnet 66
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly--doctor-like--controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
     Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
     Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Sonnet 67
Ah! wherefore with infection should he live,
And with his presence grace impiety,
That sin by him advantage should achieve,
And lace itself with his society?
Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
And steel dead seeming of his living hue?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?
Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is,
Beggar'd of blood to blush through lively veins?
For she hath no exchequer now but his,
And proud of many, lives upon his gains.
     O! him she stores, to show what wealth she had
     In days long since, before these last so bad.

Sonnet 68
Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
When beauty lived and died as flowers do now,
Before these 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.

Sonnet 69
Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
All tongues--the voice of souls--give thee that due,
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend.
Thy outward thus with outward praise is crown'd;
But those same tongues, that give thee so thine own,
In other accents do this praise confound
By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.
They look into the beauty of thy mind,
And that in guess they measure by thy deeds;
Then--churls--their thoughts, although their eyes were kind,
To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds:
     But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
     The soil is this, that thou dost common grow.

Sonnet 70
That thou art blam'd shall not be thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater being woo'd of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present'st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast passed by the ambush of young days
Either not assail'd, or victor being charg'd;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy, evermore enlarg'd,
     If some suspect of ill mask'd not thy show,
     Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.


  1. The speaker contrasts how onlookers perceive the fair youth’s beauty. Outwardly, the “world’s eye” views the fair youth as beautiful and commendable. However, inwardly, they condemn him for having dubious morals. Through the metaphor of the “rank smell of weeds” permeating a “fair flower,” the speaker describes how perceived inward superficiality can corrupt one’s external appearance. Listening to these “tongues” of public opinion causes the fair youth to grow “common,” or like everyone else.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. In Sonnet 68, the speaker continues to address the fair youth with a detached tone. He uses the personal pronouns “him” and “his” as he compares the fair youth’s more natural, unadorned beauty to the artificiality of others. The speaker refers to cosmetics and wigs as “bastard signs of fair,” claiming that real beauty is becoming a relic of the past, preserved only in the “map” of the fair youth’s face. The sentiment of this sonnet echoes that of the procreation sonnets, specifically Sonnet 11, which postulates that “bankrupt” Nature has stored the last of her wealth in the fair youth. The youth is to act as a “map” for future generations so that they might understand the “beauty of yore.”

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The speaker again broaches the subject of slander, introduced in the previous sonnet. As Sonnet 69 discusses, the public accuses the fair youth of superficiality. The speaker counters this claim, stating that the public only makes this accusation because they are jealous of his beauty. Through metaphor, the speaker claims that the fair youth’s beauty is suspicious like “a crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.” Shakespeare frequently employs the imagery of the crow to describe an omen, as in Macbeth act III, scene II, when Macbeth foreshadows killing Banquo: “...the crow / Makes wing to th’ rooky wood; / Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, / Whiles night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.” The image of the crow often signals something ominous; in the sonnet, it heralds the speaker’s warning to beware false accusations.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. The speaker denounces envy, personifying it as a savage beast which needs to be tied up and constrained. In contrast to the somber tone of the previous sonnet, the final couplet ends Sonnet 70 on a more hopeful note. The speaker suggests that if envy were abolished, the fair youth would be praised by “kingdoms of hearts.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. In the second stanza, the speaker criticizes the artificiality of cosmetics and wigs. He refers to the act of removing hair from corpses and turning it into wigs, with “sepulchres” being burial chambers. Instead of being sealed away with the corpse, the “golden tresses” were instead shaved and made into wigs to reside on a “second head.” Wigs made from the hair of the dead are also referenced in Act III, Scene II of Shakespeare’s 1596 play The Merchant of Venice: “So are those crisped snaky golden locks… / To be the dowry of a second head, / The skull, that bred them, in the sepulchre.” It is interesting to note that Queen Elizabeth I, especially in her later years, often wore wigs in order to replicate the red hair she had sported in her youth. Cosmetics were also widely used by the upper classes, regardless of gender. The speaker’s criticism of the artificiality of these products runs counter to the culture of the day and is possibly a criticism of the growing vanity of the peerage.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. In a stark departure from previous sonnets, the speaker employs the personal pronoun “he,” instead of the pronoun “you” or terms of endearment like “my love.” The sonnet takes on a more distant, removed tone and indicates a move away from overly sentimental language in the previous sonnets.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The word “exchequer” refers to a treasury office which deals with money collected by the department of revenue. In this sonnet, the speaker uses this word to emphasize the theme of degeneration in nature. Referring to nature as “she,” he laments that nature has become “bankrupt”; her only remaining source of beauty is the fair youth, which she stores to demonstrate her previous “wealth.” This elaborate metaphor pins the beauty of the youth against the slow deterioration of time and nature.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The speaker employs anaphora, a literary tool whereby the first word of a phrase is repeated in successive clauses to add emphasis. Here, the use of the anaphora, which operates through the repetition of the word “And” at the beginning of lines three through twelve, demonstrate the magnitude of ill-wills the speaker endures. These challenges cause him to cry for “restful death.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Through a series of questions, the speaker asks how beauty will survive the inevitable passing of time, especially if it is not as strong as “brass,” “earth,” “stone,” or “sea,” objects which exemplify stability, resistance, and endurance. His hopeful answer, which arrives toward the end of the sonnet, is that he will preserve and immortalize his love—the fair youth—through his poetry, whose “black ink” he envisions will “shine bright” in perpetuity.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. These lines provide the revelation of the sonnet. The speaker looks into the “glass” or mirror, and recognizes that he has grown old with “tanned antiquity.” He has become wicked and corrupt because of his narcissistic behavior, perhaps bolstered by the jealousy he displays in the previous three sonnets. His egotistical behavior, however, is not primarily his fault. Rather, as he writes in the last two lines, his behavior is a result of his love for the fair youth. In other words, as he reveres the fair youth, so he praises himself.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Sonnet 61 is comprised of three questions which provide a glimpse into the speaker’s state of mind. In the first question, the speakers asks the fair youth whether he intends for his image to keep the speaker awake at night. The second asks whether the fair youth means to disturb the speaker’s sleep. The third asks whether the fair youth, driven by jealousy, sends his spirit to surveil the speaker in his every movement. These questions provide readers a sense of the speaker’s paranoia as he feels watched by the jealous youth. At the volta, the poem takes a drastic turn. The speaker answers his own questions with “Oh, no!” before revealing that he himself is actually the jealous one, not the fair youth. He watches his own actions “for thy sake” while harboring feelings of jealousy for the youth who is “far off, with others all too near.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. The cruelty of time continues to haunt the speaker as he ruminates on images of decay. “Rich-proud cost of outworn buried age” refers to elaborate burial structures and emphasizes that even the monuments people build to preserve their memories are subject to the ravages of time. The ocean is presented as “hungry” as it advances on the “kingdom of the shore,” conjuring images of an advancing army or siege. Unlike the previous sonnet, in which the speaker fights against Time with his poetry, this sonnet ends on a more pessimistic note. The speaker knows that Time will take his love away and that his poetry, like the burial monuments, is just as susceptible to decay as anything else.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. The word “lines” is used in two ways in this sonnet. In line 4, “lines” refer to wrinkles and aging. In line 13, “lines” refers to the speaker’s writing. This sonnet marks a shift away from the theme of jealousy and returns to the speaker’s war with Time. However, as opposed to the more universal explorations of the evils of mortality, this sonnet and the two following it personalize the loss of “sweet love’s beauty.” Time is no longer just robbing individuals of their youth; it is stealing away the joys of lovers as well. However, even if time attempts to fill the youth’s brow with lines, the speaker vows to preserve the youth with lines of his own.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff