Then let not winters wragged hand deface, Shakespeare: Summary & Analysis

Sonnet 6: "Then let not winters wragged hand deface" is a Shakespearean sonnet that continues to explore the theme of the passage of time and its effect on beauty. The speaker advises the subject to preserve their youthful beauty by procreating and passing it on to the next generation. The poem emphasizes the idea that the continuation of one's beauty through offspring is a way to defeat the inevitability of aging and death.

Sonnet 6: "Then let not winters wragged hand deface"

Original Text

Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thy self to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thy self were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.

Modern Translation

So do not let winter's harsh hand deface,
In you, your summer, before you're distilled:
Make something sweet; treasure some place
With beauty's riches before it's destroyed by time.
The use of beauty is not forbidden usury,
Which brings happiness to those who repay the willing loan;
It's like creating another you for yourself,
Or ten times happier, even ten times for one;
You would be ten times happier than you are,
If ten of your own reproduced you ten times:
Then what could death do if you were to depart,
Leaving yourself living in your descendants?
Do not be stubborn, for you are much too beautiful
To be conquered by death and let worms inherit you.

Summary

Sonnet 6: "Then let not winters wragged hand deface" urges the subject to preserve their youthful beauty by passing it on to the next generation through procreation. The poem suggests that having offspring is a way to ensure the continuation of one's beauty beyond their own lifetime and defy the destructive force of time.

Critical Analysis

The sonnet continues the theme of aging and the passage of time, suggesting that the subject should not allow the "winters wragged hand" to mar their youthful beauty.

The poem advises the subject to "Make sweet some viall" and "treasure" their beauty by producing offspring. It suggests that by doing so, they can perpetuate their beauty and essence in future generations.

The poem considers procreation as a form of "vsery" (investment), wherein the beauty passed down through offspring brings happiness to both the parent and the new generation.

The speaker suggests that if the subject creates ten versions of themselves through their descendants, they could potentially be ten times happier and leave behind a lasting legacy.

Themes

  • Legacy and Procreation: The poem underscores the importance of procreation as a means of preserving one's beauty and essence through the generations.
  • Defying Time and Death: The poem suggests that leaving a legacy through offspring can challenge the inevitability of aging and death.
  • Continuity: The poem explores the idea that the continuation of beauty through descendants offers a form of continuity beyond an individual's lifetime.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Advice and Urgency: The poem conveys a sense of urgency as the speaker advises the subject to act promptly in preserving their beauty through procreation.
  • Optimism: The poem holds an optimistic view that through procreation, the subject can leave a lasting impact and find greater happiness.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The metaphor of "winters wragged hand" suggests the destructive effects of aging and time on beauty.
  • Alliteration: The repetition of the "t" sound in "Then let not winters wragged hand" creates a rhythmic effect in the opening line.

Discussion Question

How does Sonnet 6: "Then let not winters wragged hand deface" convey the idea that procreation is a means of preserving one's beauty and essence beyond their own lifetime? How does the poem connect the act of passing on beauty to the defiance of aging and death?

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