Shakespeare Sonnet 104 | Full Text and Modern Translation of Sonnet 104

Sonnet 104

Written by on | Shakespeare

This sonnet is one of the most loved Shakespeare sonnets. It is a simple love sonnets, that doesn’t have much of the anxiety found in sonnets like 27 and 129. You see the poet’s passion for the young man and we are made aware that the relationship has been happening for three years. You get the impression that the poet is profoundly in love with the young man. He clearly believes the young man to be the most beautiful person of all time.

Imagery: seasonal: winter and spring, nature; eternal love; time; beauty.

Sonnet 104 (Full Text)

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion and mine eye may be deceived;
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

Sonnet 104 Modern Translation

To me, my dear friend, you could never be old, for your beauty seems unchanged from the first time I saw your eyes.

Three cold winters have passed into summer, and three beautiful springs have become autumns. In the course of the four seasons. 

The perfumed scents of three Aprils burned up in three hot Junes, Since first I saw you in your youthful prime, and you are still as beautiful and young.

But beauty moves forward continually, imperceptibly, like the hands of a clock. In the same way, your beauty, which seems unchanged to me, moves forward, deceiving my eyes.

Out of my fear that you will lose your looks, hear this, you unborn generations:
Before you were born the most beautiful person alive had been in their prime.

Unfamiliar Words

Summer’s pride = the glorious growth of summer.

Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned: Autumn is characterised by the colour of yellow. 

Green: foolish innocence

Hear this: variation on “hear ye” in a public proclamation

Dial hand: hands of a clock

Couplet: those babies still in the womb will never witness your beauty in its full form.

For more detailed insights into this sonnet.


About the Author

Andrew Hearle

is the founder of StageMilk. Andrew trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and is now a Sydney-based actor working in Theatre, Film and Television.

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