Oct. 17, 2001

Sonnet 64: When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd

by William Shakespeare

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Sonnet 64," by William Shakespeare.

Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store:
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my lover away.
    This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
    But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

In 1777, the British General Burgoyne surrendered to the American General Gates at Saratoga. The Englishman rode to the American lines and said, "The fortune of war, General Gates, has made me your prisoner," and the American said, "I shall always be ready to testify that it has not been through any fault of Your Excellency." Burgoyne surrendered his sword, which Gates then returned to him, and officers of both sides then sat down to dinner.

In 1781 on this day, Cornwallis was defeated at Yorktown, and, for all practical purposes, the American Revolution was over. Cornwallis was in a snit over this, and refused to attend the surrender ceremony, pretending to be ill.

It's the anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, in which a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed and also the upper deck of the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland.

It's the birthday of the American impressionist painter Childe Hassam, 1859, Dorchester, Massachusettes, who painted directly from nature, particularly in New York City and Connecticut.

It's the birthday, in 1915, in New York City, of playwright Arthur Miller. His father's business failed in the Depression and Miller graduated from high school and went to work in a warehouse. He saved his money and got himself into the University of Michigan where he started to write plays. All My Sons was his first successful one, in 1947, and in 1949 came Death of A Salesman, in which Mrs. Willy Loman tells her sons: "I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid."

The novelist Nathanael West was born Nathan Weinstein in New York City on this day in 1903. He was influenced by dadaism and surrealism in his short novels, including The Dream Life of Balso Snell. In 1933, he brought his masterpiece, Miss Lonelyhearts, about a lovelorn columnist who tries to give optimistic advice to desperate people but who himself becomes depressed by the letters he gets and meets one of the letter-writers and has an affair with her and is shot by her husband. In 1939, The Day of the Locust, a novel about Hollywood, came out. His work was little known when he and his wife were killed in a car crash in California in 1940.

The novelist Elinor Glyn was born in 1864 on the isle of Jersey on this day. She was famous in her day for shocking novels in which passionate women were seduced as they lay on tigerskin rugs, quivering. The best known was It, which became a successful silent movie. Someone once wrote: "Would you like to sin/With Elinor Glyn/On a tiger skin?/Or would you prefer/To err/With her/On some other fur?"

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »