Sonnets for Advent 1: Sonnet 3

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AdventSonnet3 Here begin our Sonnets for Advent: one a day for the next 24 days to help lead us up to Christmas. In Sonnet 3, the speaker addresses a male subject and urges him to reproduce, to ‘form another’. Not to do so would mean cheating, or unblessing, a woman who is longing to be the mother of his child. The addressee is urged to think about how his own mother sees him – ‘the lovely April of her prime’ – and to anticipate seeing his own youth, his ‘golden time’, in his child. I love the musicality of line 10 and the description of the eyes as ‘windows of thine age’. And death stares back in the reflection, too – as it does for Richard II – the reflection itself is brittle, never as real as actual flesh and blood.

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another,
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remembered not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson

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