When forty winters shall besiege thy brow
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tattered weed, of small worth held.
Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use
If thou couldst answer, “This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,”
Proving his beauty by succession thine.
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.
When forty years have gone by and carved deep wrinkles in your forehead, your youthful beauty, which everyone likes to look at now, will be worth little. Then, when someone asks you where all your beauty is—all the treasure of your virile youth—if you were to say that it’s all there in your withered face and sunken eyes, that would be an all-consuming shame and nothing to be proud of. You’d have a much better excuse if, decades from now, you could say you spent your beauty and youth raising a child. If someone were to ask you why you looked so old, you could say, “The effort I spent raising this beautiful child explains the sorry old state I’m in”—and meanwhile your child’s beauty would be a new incarnation of your own! Having a beautiful child would be like being born again in old age, with the blood that flows coldly in your old veins becoming warm again in his.