Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
Her Autumn
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
WHEN 1 I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night; 2
When I behold the violet past prime, 3
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,        5
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green, all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard; 4
Then of thy beauty do I question make, 5
That thou among the wastes of time must go,        10
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
  And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
  Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
Note 1. When I do count the clock that tells the time.  Sonnet xii., in Shake-speare’s Sonnettes, 1609. This sonnet seems to be a gathering into one of Sonnets v., vi., vii. [back]
Note 2. Lines 1, 2, like Sonnet vii., speak of the decay and loss of the brightness and beauty of the day; lines 3–8, like Sonnets v., vi., of the loss and beauties of the year. (Dowden.) [back]
Note 3. Violet past prime: Cf. Hamlet, act i. sc. 3: “A violet in the youth of primy nature.” [back]
Note 4. Line 8. Cf. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, act ii. sc. 1:
                          The green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.
Note 5. Question make: consider. [back]

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