Those hours that with gentle work did frame
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 checked with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o'er-snowed and bareness everywhere.
Then were not summer's distillation left
A liquid pris'ner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no remembrance what it was.
But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show, their substance still lives sweet.
Sonnet 5 is a sonnet written by William Shakespeare.
It repeats the emphasis on human aging, compared with progress of the seasons. The final couplet about "distilled flowers" refers to the extraction of perfume from petals, in which the visible "show" of the flowers disappears, but their "essence" remains. The reference is probably to the Youth's "seed" - his capacity to prolong his "essence" by producing children, but it is also an example of Shakespeare's play on the question of what is transient and what eternal in the material world.
- Alden, Raymond. The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1916.
- Baldwin, T. W. On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1950.
- Booth, Stephen. Shakespeare's Sonnets. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
- Dowden, Edward. Shakespeare's Sonnets. London, 1881.
- Hubler, Edwin. The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952.
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