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When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,

And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,


Thy youth's proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a totter'd weed of small worth held:
Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an alleating shame, and thriftless praise!
"ow much more praise deserv'd thy beauty's use,
#f thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
$hall sum my count, and make my old e%cuse,'
&roving his beauty by succession thine'
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold!
The poet looks ahead to the time when the youth will have aged, and uses this as an argument to
urge him to waste no time, and to have a child who will replicate his father and preserve his
beauty. The imagery of ageing used is that of siege warfare, forty winters being the besieging
army, which digs trenches in the fields before the threatened city. The trenches correspond to
the furrows and lines which will mark the young man's forehead as he ages. He is urged not to
throw away all his beauty by devoting himself to self-pleasure, but to have children, thus
satisfying the world, and Nature, which will keep an account of what he does with his life.
The 1609 Quarto Version
WHen fortie Winters hall beeige thy brow,
And digge deep trenhes in thy beauties field,
Thy youthes proud liuery o ga!"d on now,
Wil be a totter"d weed of #al worth held$
Then being as%t,where all thy beautie lies,
Where all the treaure of thy luty daies&
To ay within thine owne deepe un%en eyes,
Were an all'eating ha#e,and thriftlee praie(
How #uh #ore praie deeru"d thy beauties ue,
)f thou ouldt anwere this faire hild of #ine
*hall u# #y ount,and #a%e #y old e+ue
,roouing his beautie by ueion thine(
This were to be new #ade when thou art ould,
And ee thy blood war#e when thou feel"t it ould(
-o##entary
(! When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
besiege ) lay siege to. A term from warfare. orty winters !forty years" when added to the young
man's present age, would make him about #$. At such an age he would have many wrinkles,
although it is generally reckoned that in %li&abethan times, owing to dietary inade'uacies and
disease, people aged much more rapidly, and even a forty year old could be deemed to have
reached old age. (o the poet could be referring to the youth as he might be when he reaches
forty.
*! And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
dig deep trenches The besieging army would dig trenches to undermine the city's walls. )ut the
reference may also be to furrows dug in a field when ploughing.
+! Thy youth's proud livery so gazed on now,
livery ) uniform worn by servants in a nobleman's house. *t could be 'uite sumptuous, if the
nobleman wished to make a show of wealth.
,! Will be a totter'd weed of small worth held:
totter'd weed + a tattered garment. Tottered is an old spelling of tattered. weeds often refers to
clothing in (hakespeare.
-! Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
being asked + if you were to be asked, in the future, when you might be asked.
lies + is, is buried, is hidden.
.! Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
lusty days + the days of youthful e-uberance, days of lustful behaviour. Note
that treasure contains a se-ual innuendo, implying se-ual parts, or semen, depending on
conte-t. .ompare/
.....................treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure, ere it be selfkill'd! #
Will will fulfil the treasure of thy love, 01#
/! To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
to say + to reply !to the 'uestion posed in the two lines above".
within thine own deep sunken eyes - the treasure of days long gone would show nothing
surviving other than hollow eyes, caused by the process of ageing. 2ossibly also a hinted
reference to the supposed effect of se-ual e-cess !too much masturbation3".
0! Were an alleating shame, and thriftless praise!
alleating shame + a shame which devours all sense of right and decorum. thriftless praise +
praise which produces no result or advantage. A praise of yourself which is clearly misplaced
and damaging to you.
thriftless + showing no sense of thrift, or economy.
1! "ow much more praise deserv'd thy beauty's use,
thy beauty's use + the use which you make of your beauty, the profit you derive from it.
#-4. 5ndoubtedly a se-ual meaning to these lines, especially in treasure of thy lusty days, thy
beauty's use. !(ee notes above" The youth is accused of e-pending his se-ual energy upon
himself, with the concomitant result of shame, e-haustion, sunken eyes and failure to point to
any lasting result. (ee e-tended discussion of (onnet*
(2! #f thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
*f you could reply in response to their 'uestions, 'This child of mine, etc., etc.'

((! $hall sum my count, and make my old e%cuse,'
sum my count + add up the balance sheet of my life, probably a bawdy pun on count,
pronounced cunt. Hence, 'give a reckoning for all the cunts * have en6oyed'.
make my old e%cuse + 6ustify my life when * am an old man, or, satisfy the arguments advanced
of old, that * should produce heirs, or make my habitual, fre'uently repeated e-cuse.
(hakespeare uses old in this sense in 7acbeth/
#f a man were a porter of hellgate, he should have old turning the key. 7ac.**.1.8-1.
(*! &roving his beauty by succession thine'
2roving, by his beauty, that he succeeds you as an heir to your beauty. proving also has the
meaning of 'testing, trying out' which may be relevant here.
(+! This were to be new made when thou art old,
This were to be new made + this would be as if you were being newly created.
(,! And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold!
.old and free&ing blood was thought to be the traditional accompaniment of old age. The
message of the couplet is that a child made in his image would invigorate and effectively renew
him when he reached old age. His blood would flow warm in his veins again.