When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
Sonnet 12: Translation to modern English
When I count the chimes of the clock and watch the bright day sunken into terrifying night; when I see violets fading, and black curls all silvered over with white; when I see tall trees which previously offered shade to sheep and cattle but now with no leaves; and the green crops of summer tied up in harvested sheaves covered with scratchy dried out leaves, carried away on a wagon; then I begin to think about the endurance of your beauty and that you will have to decline and decay like everything else, because sweet and beautiful things lose their sweetness and beauty and die while watching new sweet and beautiful things taking their place. The only defence against Time’s scythe is to defy him when he takes you away, by having children.