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 every where:
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 distill’d, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
Sonnet 5: Translation to modern English
Time, that so carefully made those beautiful eyes that every other eye gazes at, will become a tyrant to those same lovely eyes and make them ugly; because never-resting time leads summer into hideous winter and destroys it there. Sap is stopped from rising by the frost and the leaves disappear; beauty is covered with snow and all the trees are bare. Then, if summer’s distillation hadn’t been preserved as a prisoner in a glass vial, that summer’s legacy would be lost with that summer’s death. Neither it nor the memory of what it was would remain. But flowers that have been distilled, even though they’ve been destroyed by winter, lose only their outward appearance: their substance lives on sweetly.