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Introduction

This sonnet composed by William Shakespeare is about the beauty of his beloved. In this poem, the poet says that during the old times, people used to write about beauty. That beauty did not exist in those days and thus what they wrote was rather foreshadowing of poet’s beloved.

In other words, the beautiful human which old literature talked about is born during the time of Shakespeare. And the poet is in conversation to her.

Poem

Stanza 1

When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rime,
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,

According to the poet, he sees the descriptions (mentions) of fairest (most beautiful) wights (people) when he reads the chronicle (literature) of wasted time (history). In those chronicles, the poet finds beautiful old rhyme (poems) about the beauty (beautiful people) such as beautiful ladies and lovely knights who are dead now.

Note that the stanza begins with the word when which means that this stanza raises curiosity among the readers to know when will happen next. In addition, also note that we find words that describe beauty repeated several times here.

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Stanza 2

Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express’d
Even such a beauty as you master now.

The poet says that he finds the beauty in his beloved which the antique (old) pen had expressed in the poems. According to the poet, the hand, foot, lip, eye and brow of his beloved blazons (i.e. shows) the same beauty which the ancient people had described.

In other words, the ancient people used to praise body parts of beautiful people and the poet’s beloved has mastered that beauty.

Stanza 3

So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And, for they look’d but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:

In this stanza, the poet says that what the people of old time praised were mere prophecies and foreshadowing of poet’s beloved. The beauty of poet’s beloved was prefigured (described already) by ancient people.

In the next line, the poet says that those people (of old times) looked with divine eyes i.e. they had skills to predict the poet’s beloved However they did not have enough skills to sing (praise) her worth (beauty)

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Couplet

For we, which now behold these present days,
Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.

In the final couplet, the poet says that those who live in the present time do have eyes which may wonder and get amazed by seeing the beauty of poet’s beloved. However they do not have tongues enough to praise it (as the ancient had).

So, in the final couplet, an ironical situation is described. Here the people can see the beauty which ancient imagined. However they cannot praise it as ancients did.

Read important questions and answers of this poem.

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