Sonnet 5


The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel:
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there;
Sap check’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where:
Then, were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was:
    But flowers distill’d though they with winter meet,
    Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

Shakespeare Droeshout Engravings Print

“Though Sonnet 4 is a tour de force in the handling of form, Sonnet 5 is even more important to the critic who would make much of formal elements, in that it has a quality which sets it apart from the preceding four: a quality the average reader might call seriousness or sincerity. Here Shakespeare deals with Time and Beauty (and for the application of these to the particular case of youth requires Sonnet 6, linked to 5 by “Then let not …”).” from The Sonnets (Signet Classic Shakespeare) (1999)