Shakespeare Sonnet 14: "Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck"

Updated on February 1, 2018
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, the real Shakespeare



In sonnet 14, "Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck," the speaker continues his mission of persuasion. This time he contrasts the act of predicting the future by supernatural vs natural means.

The speaker hopes that his ability to predict that future by natural means will be more persuasive with the young man who is quite vain about his appearance.

By concentrating on the young man's eyes instead of the heavenly orbs, the speaker demonstrates the importance of the physical encasement to those future generations he is so compelled to herald.

Reading of Shakespeare Sonnet 14

First Quatrain: "Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck"

In the first quatrain of Sonnet 14, the speaker says he does not go by astrological star patterns to predict the future.

The speaker does, however, have an understanding of astronomy, but still he cannot predict the "good or evil luck, / Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality."

But his understanding of astronomy does not give him the sorcerer’s gift.

The speaker wishes to keep his prognostications on a completely material level as he appeals to the young man's sensibilities.

Second Quatrain: "Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell"

The speaker continues to say that he cannot even predict the future happenings of the next few minutes; he has no idea whether the weather will include "thunder, rain, and wind."

In addition, the speaker also cannot say how well the reign of certain princes may transpire. The stars do not speak to him of fortune and misfortune.

The speaker implies that the stars in the heavens, while comparing favorably with the young man's beauty, are not the focus of the speaker, whose argument will remain grounded in earth.

Third Quatrain: "But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive"

But instead of from the heavenly stars, the speaker acquires his knowledge from the young man’s eyes; those eyes are "constant stars" that the speaker has no difficulty reading.

And what the speaker reads in those eyes is "Truth and beauty shall together thrive, / If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert."

The truth and beauty that exist in the young man shall continue to "thrive," if the lad will not continue to store those qualities unused.

But instead if the young lad will change his mind about remaining single, and instead marry and produce a suitable heir who then can carry on those qualities of truth and beauty, those qualities will continue to thrive.

The Couplet: "Or else of thee this I prognosticate"

Then the speaker does make a prediction that if the young man does not produce a pleasing son to carry on those worthwhile qualities, after the young man dies, so will those qualities: "Or else of thee this I prognosticate: / ‘Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.’"

The speaker’s purpose in sonnet 14 in explaining his lack of ability to predict the future by supernatural means is that he wants to underscore the importance of his being able to predict the future by completely natural means: if the young man dies without leaving an heir, all of the lad’s pleasant qualities will die with him.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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