Sonnet 63 in the 1609 Quarto
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. 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.
- 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.