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Sonnet 104 in the 1609 Quarto
The youth does not seem to have grown older at all in the three years that the poet has known him. Still, age comes on imperceptibly. If so, future ages will have to know that beauty died before future ages were born.
This sonnet deals with the destructive force of time as we grow older. Shakespeare uses his friend as an example. He admires the fact that his friend has kept his youthful appearance over the time that he has known him.
He opens with a sentimental line. He admits that to him his friend will for ever be that young, youthful person. One has to pay careful attention to the way that Shakespeare makes use of words; he says "To me" meaning that such views only apply to him. Also in line one there is an alliteration of the "f" sound "fair friend".
Line three opens up with an exclaimed expression "such seems". The word "such" can suggest that the poet himself is taken aback by this as well. But then the word "seems" suggests that what Shakespeare sees in this friend only appears to be what it is; in reality his friend's appearance has been damaged by time.
Sonnet 104 is an English or Shakespearean sonnet. The English sonnet has three quatrains, followed by a final rhyming couplet. It follows the typical rhyme scheme of the form abab cdcd efef gg and is composed in iambic pentameter, a type of poetic metre based on five pairs of metrically weak/strong syllabic positions. The 8th line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:
× / × / × / × / × / Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green. (104.8)
- / = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.
The 13th line has a mid-line reversal ("hear this"):
× / × / / × × / × / For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred: (104.13)
This is a metrical variation that is more commonly encountered at the beginning of the line, and there is one definite (line 10) and several potential (lines 3, 4, 9, 11, and 14) examples of initial reversals in the sonnet.
The meter demands a two-syllable pronunciation for "dial" in line 9.
- First edition and facsimile
- Shakespeare, William (1609). Shake-speares Sonnets: Never Before Imprinted. London: Thomas Thorpe.
- Lee, Sidney, ed. (1905). Shakespeares Sonnets: Being a reproduction in facsimile of the first edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 458829162.
- Variorum editions
- Alden, Raymond Macdonald, ed. (1916). The Sonnets of Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. OCLC 234756.
- Rollins, Hyder Edward, ed. (1944). A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: The Sonnets [2 Volumes]. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. OCLC 6028485.
- Modern critical editions
- Atkins, Carl D., ed. (2007). Shakespeare's Sonnets: With Three Hundred Years of Commentary. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 978-0-8386-4163-7. OCLC 86090499.
- Booth, Stephen, ed. (2000) [1st ed. 1977]. Shakespeare's Sonnets (Rev. ed.). New Haven: Yale Nota Bene. ISBN 0-300-01959-9. OCLC 2968040.
- Burrow, Colin, ed. (2002). The Complete Sonnets and Poems. The Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192819338. OCLC 48532938.
- Duncan-Jones, Katherine, ed. (2010) [1st ed. 1997]. Shakespeare's Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series (Rev. ed.). London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4080-1797-5. OCLC 755065951.
- Evans, G. Blakemore, ed. (1996). The Sonnets. The New Cambridge Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521294034. OCLC 32272082.
- Kerrigan, John, ed. (1995) [1st ed. 1986]. The Sonnets ; and, A Lover's Complaint. New Penguin Shakespeare (Rev. ed.). Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-070732-8. OCLC 15018446.
- Mowat, Barbara A.; Werstine, Paul, eds. (2006). Shakespeare's Sonnets & Poems. Folger Shakespeare Library. New York: Washington Square Press. ISBN 978-0743273282. OCLC 64594469.
- Orgel, Stephen, ed. (2001). The Sonnets. The Pelican Shakespeare (Rev. ed.). New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0140714531. OCLC 46683809.
- Vendler, Helen, ed. (1997). The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-63712-7. OCLC 36806589.