Saturday, December 14, 2013

As truth and beauty shall together thrive - Shakespeare

Not from the stars do I my judgement 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.

This sonnet introduces a variant of the procreation theme, tying it in with predictions of the future made, not through astrology (Astronomy), as would normally be expected, but through taking the youth's eyes as stars in the heavens which foretell the future.

The comparison of stars with eyes is traditional love lore in which the beloved assumes the qualities of everything that is angelic and heavenly. Drayton, Sydney and other contemporary poets made use of it. (See the example from Sidney at the bottom of this page). Shakespeare implies here that the foreknowledge he has from the 'stars' of the youth's eyes surpasses that derived from traditional astrology. He asserts that truth and beauty are doomed forever unless the young man chooses to perpetuate his line by having children.