Shakespeare's Sonnets: But wherefore do not you a mightier way

Sonnet 16

Original Text: 
SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (London: G. Eld for T. T. and sold by William Aspley, 1609): b4r.
2Make war upon this bloody tyrant time
4With means more blessèd than my barren rhyme?
7With virtuous wish would bear your living flow'rs,
8Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
11Neither in inward worth nor outward fair
12Can make you live your self in eyes of men;
13    To give away your self keeps your self still,
14    And you must live drawn by your own sweet skill.


1] mightier] apparently elided. Back to Line
3] Shakespeare takes sides with decay against time (15.11-12). Back to Line
5] The metaphor suggests that the beloved is at the peak of his life's happiness and can look forward to less happy hours in the future. Back to Line
6] unset] yet without plants (OED 5c). Back to Line
9] lines of life] wrinkles, and "the thread fabled to be spun by the Fates, determining the duration of a person's life" (OED 1g, from ca. 1580, and credited to Sir Philip Sidney, late uncle to Lord Herbert and brother to his mother, Mary Sidney); or possibly one's descendents. Back to Line
10] pencil] "paintbrush made with fine hair tapered to a point, esp. a small brush suitable for delicate work" (OED, "pencil," 1.a.). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: