Poem Activity

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When forty winters shall besiege thy brow…

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Poem Activity

Have fun with the poem by trying this...

Read the poem several times thinking in particular about the structure of a sonnet. Look at the abab/cdcd/efef/gg rhyming pattern; the use of iambic pentameter lines and the significance of the final rhyming couplet. Then read William Wordsworth’s sonnet about the sonnet form which finds liberty not restriction in the discipline of composing just 14 lines.
Consider your response to both poems. Is the sonnet form a playground or a strait-jacket?

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Modern English Original spelling

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Links Off

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 all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,
‘Proving 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.

WHen fortie Winters shall beseige thy brow,
And digge deep trenches in thy beauties field,
Thy youthes proud liuery so gaz’d on now,
Wil be a totter’d weed of smal worth held:
Then being askt, where all thy beautie lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty daies;
To say within thine owne deepe sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftlesse praise.
How much more praise deseru’d thy beauties vse,
If thou couldst answere this faire child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse
Proouing his beautie by succession thine.
This were to be new made when thou art ould,
And see thy blood warme when thou feel’st it could.