Sonnet XV: When I Consider everything that Grows

Original Text: 
William Shakespeare, Shake-speares sonnets (London: G. Eld for T. T., 1609). STC 22353. Facs. edn.: London: J. Cape, 1925. PR 2750 B48 1609b ROBA.
2Holds in perfection but a little moment,
3That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
4Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
5When I perceive that men as plants increase,
6Cheered and check'd even by the selfsame sky,
7Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
8And wear their brave state out of memory;
10Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
12To change your day of youth to sullied night;
13And all in war with Time for love of you,
14As he takes from you, I engraft you new.


1] Shakespeare's 154 sonnets were first published in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe in an unauthorized edition. They are there dedicated to a mysterious Mr. W. H., whom some critics have identified with Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, others with William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Many other possibilities have been suggested. Most of the sonnets were probably written before 1598, for in that year Francis Meres refers in Palladis Tamia to Shakespeare's "sugred Sonnets among his private friends." More precise dating is not possible though the literature on the subject is vast. The numbering of the sonnets here follows that of Thorpe and of modern standard editions. Thorpe's order is clearly wrong, but no agreement has been reached as to their correct order. Of the 154 sonnets, 126 are addressed to the friend, a young aristocrat, and 26 deal with the poet's love for a dark lady, who is also the friend's mistress. Friendship wins out. The two final sonnets are not part of the story but are adaptations of verses by the Byzantine poet Marianus. Among the best modern editions are those by H. E. Rollins in the New Variorium Shakespeare (1944). Back to Line
9] conceit: thought. Back to Line
11] Where ... Decay: where destructive Time fights in alliance with Decay. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
F. D. Hoeniger
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.137.