Sonnet 122

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Sonnet 122
Detail of old-spelling text
The first eleven lines of Sonnet 122 in the 1609 Quarto
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Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full character’d with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain,
Beyond all date, even to eternity:
Or, at the least, so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to raz’d oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be miss’d.
That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive thee more:
To keep an adjunct to remember thee
Were to import forgetfulness in me.





—William Shakespeare[1]

Sonnet 122 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare, and first published in 1609. It is a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man. Although the relationship started exuberantly in Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day") by now it has given way to an almost defensive tone. The poet justifies giving away or losing a notebook ("tables") given him by the youth to record shared events by saying that his memories of them are stronger.


Sonnet 122 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 1st line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:

  ×  /      ×  / ×    /    ×  /   ×   / 
Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain (122.1)
/ = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.

Line 4 exhibits a mid-line reversal:

 × /   ×    /    /     × × /  × / 
Beyond all date; even to eternity: (122.4)

Lines 3, 5, 11, and 14 all have potential initial reversals. Line 10 potentially incorporates a rightward movement of the third ictus (resulting in a four-position figure, × × / /, sometimes referred to as a minor ionic):

 ×   /   ×  /  ×     ×  /    /    ×   / 
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score; (122.10)

However, if "thy" receives emphasis, the line becomes regular again.

The meter demands that line 4's "even" function as one syllable, and line 7's "oblivion" as three.[2]


  1. ^ Pooler, C[harles] Knox, ed. (1918). The Works of Shakespeare: Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare [1st series]. London: Methuen & Company. OCLC 4770201. 
  2. ^ Kerrigan 1995, p. 344.


First edition and facsimile
Variorum editions
Modern critical editions

External links[edit]