When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
I have been doing a sonnet a week for twelve weeks. When I started, I knew nothing of Shakespeare. When it came to Shakespeare, I considered it beyond my comprehension. Throughout high school , when my teachers would say to me, this is how this line is to be understood, I thought they were ridiculous to assume to know the poetry. How wrong I was. After about ten weeks of trying to decipher the sonnets, I can truly say, I'm beginning to understand the writer.
Here's the twelfth sonnet and from what I understand, Shakespeare talks about time and clocks. Fitting then it should be the 12th sonnet(12 hours on a clock), don't you think?
1. When I add up the years that have gone by (count the chimes a clock makes - more chimes the bells make as time passes)
2. And see youth turn old;
3. When I behold the violet(spring) past prime(turn old and die),
4. And the dark hair of youth, turned white with age;
5. When lofty trees I see barren of leaves (fall and winter...time again past),
6. A tree that used to cover the herd in shade,
7. And summer's green (wheat or barley in the summer) all tied up in bails(harvest - which happens in the fall),
8. Put on the bier (cart drawn by a horse) with white and bristly beard (see picture - wheat has a beard called an awn when ready for harvesting) Note: The horse and cart also used to carry coffins.
9. Then I think about what will happen to your beauty,
10. Eventually time, will make your beauty fade and die,
11. Just like all things sweet and beautiful
12. that die and become replaced by other things sweet and beautiful;
13. There is nothing that can fight against time's weapon
14. Except for children to continue to fight against time when you die.