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Modern Text

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment;
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence commént;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheerèd and checked ev'n by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you, most rich in youth, before my sight,
Where wasteful time debateth with decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
  And all in war with time for love of you,
  As he takes from you, I engraft you new.
When I think about the fact that every living thing is perfect only for a brief time, that the whole world is one big stage on which the stars secretly control the action; when I see that men grow like plants, encouraged and then thwarted by the same sky, exulting in their youthful vigor and then declining just when they’re at their height, vanishing until their glory is no longer even remembered; when I think about the whole world’s instability—then I think of you, a youth enjoying so many of nature’s rich gifts. In my mind, I see time and decay debating with each other about how to corrupt your sunny youth, how to convert it to old age and night. Out of love for you, I wage war against time: As he takes away your youth, I continually recreate you in these poems.

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