Sonnet 63

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Sonnet 63
Detail of old-spelling text
Sonnet 63 in the 1609 Quarto
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Against my love shall be, as I am now,
With Time’s injurious hand crush’d and o’erworn;
When hours have drain’d his blood and fill’d his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travell’d on to age’s steepy night,
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing or vanish’d out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.





—William Shakespeare[1]

Sonnet 63 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man. Contrary to most of the other poems in the Fair Youth sequence, in sonnets 63 to 68 there is no explicit addressee, indeed the second person pronoun (you or thou) is not used anywhere in sonnets 63 to 68.


This sonnet, addressed to the same young man as the previous 62 sonnets, deals with the inevitability of aging and death. Shakespeare laments the fact that his subject's beauty will not last forever, but unlike Sonnet 2, in which immortality is found through procreation, the resolution found here is in the immortality granted by the writing of the poem ("these black lines").

Since there is no specific addresse (no you or thou) one may perhaps more accurately say that the poem celebrates the Fair Youth than that it is specifically addressed to him.


Sonnet 63 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 third line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:

  ×   /     ×     /      ×    /   ×    /      ×    / 
When hours have drain'd his blood and fill'd his brow (63.3)
/ = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.

The sonnet is quite metrically regular, but two variations stand out:

 ×    /     ×  /  ×    /     /     ×   ×     / 
With Time's injurious hand crush'd and o'er-worn; (63.2)

  /  ×   × /    ×   /  ×   /   ×     / 
Stealing away the treasure of his spring; (63.8)

Reversals — such as the mid-line reversal "crush'd and", and the initial reversal "stealing" — can be used to bring special emphasis to words, especially verbs of action or motion, a practice Marina Tarlinskaja calls rhythmical italics.[2] Here, both instances highlight Time's cruel effects upon beauty.


Like Sonnet 2, this poem makes use of cutting and crushing imagery to depict the effects of time in creating wrinkles on the face. The prevailing metaphors in this sonnet compare youthful beauty to riches, similar to Sonnet 4, and old age and death to night, similar to Sonnet 12.

The attention to the subject's mortality, returned to in this sonnet, remains the focus for the next two sonnets, and Sonnet 65 contains much the same resolution as this one does.


  1. ^ Pooler, C[harles] Knox, ed. (1918). The Works of Shakespeare: Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare [1st series]. London: Methuen & Company. OCLC 4770201. 
  2. ^ Tarlinskaja, Marina (2014). Shakespeare and the Versification of English Drama, 1561–1642. Farnham: Ashgate. pp. 29–32. ISBN 978-1-4724-3028-1. 

Further reading[edit]

First edition and facsimile
Variorum editions
Modern critical editions

External links[edit]