Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,
And yet methinks I have astronomy;
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find.
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert:
Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.
I have to be honest. The main reason I chose this sonnet is that in the northern hemisphere we currently have the rare opportunity to look up into the night sky and see the comet C/2020 F3 Neowise in all its beauty. Depending on where you live you might want to find out at what times you have to get up and where exactly you have to look. Luckily, there are some websites that help with that.
Ultimately, the same limitations which applied to the speaker in this sonnet still apply to us. We will not be able to predict the future by looking at the stars. We may gain an insight into the past by looking at them and we can make an effort to live in the present: for instance by trying to catch a glimpse of that comet.
In the third quatrain of the sonnet the speaker claims to find his knowledge in his lover’s eyes, which he compares to constant stars. While comparing the lover’s eyes to the stars may almost sound like a cliché today, it is typical for love poetry to make claims that the beloved is from another plane. This also allows for the beautiful conclusion in the couplet at the end. When the lover dies, so does truth and beauty.