Those howers that with gentle worke did frame, Shakespeare: Summary & Analysis

Sonnet 5: "Those howers that with gentle worke did frame" is a Shakespearean sonnet that explores the transient nature of beauty and the effects of time on physical appearances. The speaker reflects on how time can transform the beauty of summer into the desolation of winter, causing even the most beautiful things to decay. The poem emphasizes the inevitable passage of time and its impact on the perception of beauty.

Sonnet 5: "Those howers that with gentle worke did frame"

Original Text

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 check’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’ersnow’d 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’ed, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

Modern Translation

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 which was once fair will become unfair;
Because time, which never stops, leads summer
To hideous winter and destroys its beauty;
Sap frozen by frost and vibrant leaves all gone,
Beauty covered in snow and barrenness everywhere;
Then, if summer's distilled essence weren't left
A liquid prisoner enclosed in glass walls,
The effect of beauty would be taken away,
Neither it nor any memory of what it was:
But flowers, though distilled, when they meet with winter,
Lose only their appearance; their essence still remains sweet.

Summary

Sonnet 5: "Those howers that with gentle worke did frame" reflects on the passage of time and its impact on beauty. The poem contrasts the beauty of summer with the inevitable arrival of winter, which causes the decay of both physical and natural beauty. The poem suggests that while appearances may change, the underlying essence of beauty remains.

Critical Analysis

The sonnet discusses the temporal nature of beauty and how time transforms even the most attractive things. It contrasts the visual appeal of summer with the inevitable deterioration that winter brings.

The poem underscores the concept that time's relentless progression leads from the flourishing beauty of summer to the barrenness and cold of winter.

The speaker employs metaphors like "Sap checkt with frost" and "Beauty ore-snow’d and barenes" to vividly describe the decay and loss associated with the changing seasons.

The poem implies that while external appearances may fade, the essence of beauty remains in some form, using the metaphor of distilled flowers that lose their show but retain their sweet substance.

Themes

  • Transience of Beauty: The poem explores how time's passage alters the perception of beauty and transforms vibrant summer into bleak winter.
  • Nature's Cycles: The poem highlights the natural cycles of seasons, using them as metaphors for the larger theme of the passage of time and change.
  • Ephemeral vs. Enduring: The poem suggests that while physical appearances may change, the underlying essence of beauty endures in some form.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Reflection: The poem expresses a reflective attitude towards the inevitable changes brought about by time, including the transformation of beauty.
  • Melancholy: The poem conveys a sense of melancholy as it describes the decay and loss associated with the changing of seasons.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The metaphors of summer transforming into winter and flowers distilling through winter illustrate the broader theme of change and transience.
  • Alliteration: The repetition of the "s" sound in "Sap checkt with frost" creates a smooth and flowing rhythm in the poem.

Discussion Question

How does Sonnet 5: "Those howers that with gentle worke did frame" convey the idea of the temporal nature of beauty and the effects of time on both the physical world and human perception? How does the metaphor of distilled flowers losing their show but retaining their sweet substance relate to the concept of enduring beauty?

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