Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
Beauty and Rhyme
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
WHEN 1 in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rime
In praise of Ladies dead and lovely Knights;
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,        5
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have exprest
Even such a beauty as you master 2 now.
So all their praises are 3 but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;        10
And for they looked but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:
  For we, who now behold these present days,
  Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
Note 1. Sonnet cvi. Shake-speare’s Sonnettes, 1609. The poet gazes backward on the famous persons of former ages, men and women, his friend being possessor of the united perfections of both man and woman. (Dowden.) [back]
Note 2. Master: possess, own as a master. So King Henry V., act ii. sc. 4, 137:
  You’ll find a difference
*        *        *        *        *
Between the promise of his greener days
And these he masters now.
Note 3. So all their praises are: Compare Constable’s Sonnets from Todd’s MS., vii. (not Diana as Prof. Dowden has it).—Schelling.
  Miracle of the world I never will deny
That former poets praise the beauty of their days;
But all those beauties were but figures of thy praise,
And all those poets did of thee but prophecy.

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