General Editor

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Shakespeare's Sonnets: When I do count the clock that tells the time

Sonnet 12

5When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
6Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
7And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
9Then of thy beauty do I question make
10That thou among the wastes of time must go,
11Since sweets and beauties do them-selves forsake,
12And die as fast as they see others grow,
13    And nothing 'gainst time's scythe can make defence
14    Save breed to brave him, when he takes thee hence.

Notes

1] count the clock] by listening to the chiming. Back to Line
2] brave] splendid. hid'ous] hidious Q. Back to Line
3] prime] pinnacle of excellence. Back to Line
4] sable] black (a heraldic colour). curls' or] (paint-blackened) curls made of gold, as on a heraldic shield. or silver'd o'er] Q "or siluer'd ore" is a crux. Editors variously emend to "all silvered o'er", "are silver'd o'er", "o'er-silver'd all", "ensilvered o'er", and "o'er-silvered are". Any of these might be correct, and the general meaning is clear (the beloved's dark hair is whitening with age). I defend the original reading by reading "curls" as a genitive in the belief that interpretation of a crux that does least damage to the original has a correspondingly diminished chance to be wrong. Back to Line
8] bier] litter for a corpse. Back to Line
 What thou lovest well remains,
                  the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov'st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
                or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
Ezra Pound Pisan Cantos, LXXXI
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