Devouring Time, blunt
thou the lion's paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet'st,
And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O! carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
Again the poet declares the prospect of immortality for the youth through his verse. Not only will he live forever, but he will be eternally young, and the ravages of time will not touch him. Time will instead do the conventional damage which is customary and known to all, killing sweetness and beauty everywhere. And, despite a temporary prohibition, which the poet then abandons, time will proceed on its usual course, and even do its worst against the youth, the poet's love. Yet despite this the youth will survive in the verses made to celebrate his beauty and the poet's love for him.
The two declarations of love are important, because some commentators claim that sonnet 20 marks a change of direction in the poet's attitude to the young man. In fact the change has already occurred, in 10, 13, and 15 before it is repeated here.
Make thee another self, for love of me, 10
O, none but unthrifts! Dear my love, you know
You had a father: let your son say so. 13
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new. 15
The 1609 Quarto Version
DEuouring time blunt thou the Lyons pawes,
And make the earth deuoure her owne ſweet brood,
Plucke the keene teeth from the fierce Tygers yawes,
And burne the long liu'd Phœnix in her blood,
Make glad and ſorry ſeaſons as thou fleet'ſt,
And do what ere thou wilt ſwift-footed time
To the wide world and all her fading ſweets:
But I forbid thee one moſt hainous crime,
O carue not with thy howers my loues faire brow,
Nor draw noe lines there with thine antique pen,
Him in thy courſe vntainted doe allow,
For beauties patterne to ſucceding men.
Yet doe thy worſt ould Time diſpight thy wrong,
My loue ſhall in my verſe euer liue young.