Sonnet No. 60

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Sonnet No. 60, by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

3 Responses to “Sonnet No. 60”

  1. Hmmm.. this is unusually obscure, oblique language, even for WillS. What’s a ‘main’? How do you ‘transfix a flourish’?
    What’s a ‘rarity of nature’s truth’ – apart from something that rhymes with ‘youth’?

  2. telescoper Says:

    Not at all. For my money it’s one of the clearest and most beautifully formed of all the sonnets.

    To answer your questions:

    “Main” is a pretty standard word of the time for “sea” or “ocean”, referring back to the opening line.

    “Transfix” is perfectly apt as it can mean, e.g. “paralyse with with sudden emotion” (Chambers) but also to cut through or sever, which goes well with “flourish” in the original sense of a “bloom”, i.e. a flower.

    And a “rarity” is something valued for its scarcity, “truth” being “reality” – so this means “valuable things of the living world”

  3. So if ‘main’ is the sea, why the sea of light rather than (say) a field of light or an anything-else of light, and what is a newborn child (nativity) doing in it?

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