Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt'ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong but time decays?
O fearful meditation! Where, alack,
Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil or beauty can forbid?
O none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.
Since neither brass nor stone nor earth nor the limitless ocean is strong enough to resist the sad force of mortality, how can beauty possibly resist death’s rage when beauty is no stronger than a flower? How could your beauty, which is as fragile as the sweet breath of summer, hold out against the destructive assaults of time when neither invulnerable rocks nor gates of steel are strong enough to resist its decaying power? What a frightening thing to think about! Alas, where can I put your beauty, time’s most precious creation, to hide it from time itself? Whose hand is strong enough to slow time down? Who will forbid its destruction of your beauty? Oh, no one, unless this miracle proves effective: that in the black ink of my poetry, the one I love may still shine bright.