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Those hours that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel.
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there,
Sap checked with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o'er-snowed and bareness everywhere.
Then were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no remembrance what it was.
  But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,
  Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
The same process that over time shaped your wonderful face, so that now everybody loves to look at you, will eventually destroy that face, making ugly what is now surpassingly beautiful. For never-resting Time takes summer by the hand, leads him into horrifying winter, and destroys him there—freezing his sap, removing his full leaves, covering up his beauty with snow, and turning everything bare. If we didn’t have perfume distilled from summer flowers to keep in a jar, the effects of summer would vanish at the end of the season. Without perfume, we’d have no way of remembering the summer itself or its beauty. But the flowers used to make perfume lose only their outward beauty when winter comes; their beautiful scent lives on sweetly.

Popular pages: Shakespeare’s Sonnets