Sonnet No. 14

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality.
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find.
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert.
Or else of thee this I prognosticate;
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.


Sonnet No. 14, by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

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5 Responses to “Sonnet No. 14”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I wonder if the last line inspired Keats’ ode on a Grecian urn,

    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

  2. Possible. It’s striking that “truth and beauty” are paired twice in this Sonnet which Keats surely would have read.

    The wikipedia article relating to Ode on a Grecian Urn has some very interesting comments on those lines:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_on_a_Grecian_Urn

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    It was Dirac’s guiding principle in theoretical physics, although he had no time for poetry, supposedly contradicting Oppenheimer (who liked poetry) by saying that theoretical physics sought to say profound things in as few lines as possible whereas…

    • I think poetry is at least as difficult as physics, and I admire great poets at least as much as I do great physicists. Which is a lot.

    • ps. There is also a resonance with a famous sonnet by Keats in line 10 “Bright star would I were as steadfast as thou art”

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