|Shakespeare's Sonnets Navigator|
- 1: "From fairest creatures we desire increase"
- The poet chides the fair youth for his selfishness in not having children.
We want all beautiful creatures to produce offspring, so that perfect beauty may never die, but live, because as the course of time brings death to the mature beauty, so the young heir of the mature beauty grows to perfection, making us remember the perfection of beauty's rose. But you, betrothed to your own bright eyes, feed your light's flame with your single life, making a famine where abundance lies, so that you yourself are your own foe, and to your sweet self you are too cruel. You, that are now the world's fresh ornament and only herald of the gaudy spring, within your own bud you bury what is contained within and, tender churl, thus you make waste by your miserliness. Pity the world (and beget a child), or else you will be a glutton, letting the world's due (your beauty) be eaten by death and selfishness.
- 2: "When forty winters shall besiege thy brow"
- The poet warns the fair youth that when he is forty it will be a shame if he has no child who has inherited his beauty.
When forty winters shall beseige your brow, and dig deep trenches in your beauty's field, your youth's proud outward appearance, so gazed on now, will be a tattered weed, of small worth. Then, when you are asked where all of your beauty is, or where all the treasure of your lusty days is, if your only answer is that it is within your own deep-sunken eyes would be a shame. How much more praise would your use of your beauty deserve, if you could answer, 'This fair child of mine shall sum my life's account and be my excuse for living'. That would prove his beauty is yours. That would be to be new made when you are old, and see your blood warm when you feel it cold.
- 3: "Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest"
- The poet advises the fair youth to look in the mirror, and there see in his reflection the image of his mother, whose beauty he should perpetuate by blessing a woman with motherhood.
Look in your mirror, and tell the face you view that now is the time that face should form another; whose fresh (youthful) condition if you (choose) not to renew, you do beguile the world and rob some mother (of the blessing of a child). For where is she so fair whose unplowed womb disdains the tillage of your husbandry? Or who is he so foolish (that he) will become the tomb of his self-love, to stop posterity's (continuance)? You are your mother's mirror, and she in you recalls the lovely April of her prime: so you through windows of your age shall see, despite the wrinkles, that (this is) your golden time. But if you live (and want) not to be remembered, die single, and your image dies with you.
- 4: "Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend"
- The poet tells the fair youth that Nature only lends beauty, and She expects us to invest it wisely by having children.
Unthrifty loveliness, why do you spend upon yourself your beauty's (potential) legacy? Nature's bequest gives nothing but (only) lends, and being generous she lends to those (who) are generous themselves. Then, beauteous miser, why do you abuse the bounteous inheritance given you to give (future generations)? Profitless usurer, why do you use so great a sum of sums, yet cannot live (fulfilled)? For having traffic with yourself alone, you yourself do your sweet self deceive. Then how, when nature calls you to be gone, what acceptable balance sheet can you leave? Your unused beauty must be entombed with you, which, (if) used, lives to be the executor (of your estate).
- 5: "Those hours that with gentle work did frame"
- The poet warns the fair youth that time, which made the summer in which his much-admired beauty was created, will soon bring the winter which will destroy it. Then, only a distillation of his beauty, an attar within "walls of glass" will preserve it against oblivion. This thought is continued and completed in the next sonnet, in which a woman is represented as the vial in which the essence of beauty can be contained.
Those hours, that with gentle work did frame the lovely sight where every eye doth dwell, will play tyrants to the very same (that it formerly graced) and that (play of time will) unbeautify (that) which (now) does excel in beauty: for never-resting time leads summer on to hideous winter and destroys him there; sap (which has been) checked with frost and lusty leaves (being) quite gone. Beauty (is) snowed over and bareness (is apparent) everywhere: then, were not summer's distillation (of summer flowers' perfumes) left, a liquid prisoner penned in walls of glass, beauty's effects (along) with beauty, would be deprived of beauty and any remembrance (of) what it was. But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet, lose only their show; their substance still lives sweet.
- 6: "Then let not winter's ragged hand deface"
- Continuing the thought and metaphor of Sonnet 5, the poet warns the fair young man that if he waits too long to have children, it will be too late, and worms will be his inheritors.
Then let not winter's ragged hand deface in you your summer, before you be distilled (like flowers are distilled to make perfume): make sweet some vial; enrich you some place with beauty's treasure, before it (your beauty) be killed by yourself (dying without an heir). It is not forbidden usury which makes happy those that repay the loan (of beauty) willingly. Or it would be an even happier event if the loan were repaid at a rate of ten for one; you would be ten times happier than you are now if ten of your children were new figures of you. Then what could death do, if you should depart, leaving you living in posterity? Be not willful, for you are much too fair to be death's conquest and make worms your heir.
- 7: "Lo, in the orient when the gracious light"
- The poet compares the course of the sun in the skies to the career of a king. Both are welcomed when they are first seen, and adored in their time of vigor, but disregarded when they fall into old age. From this, the poet draws a lesson for the fair youth: unless he begets children while he is still fair, no one will notice when he dies.
Lo! in the orient when the gracious (kingly) light lifts up his burning head, each earthly eye does homage to his newly-appearing sight, serving (worshiping) with looks his sacred majesty; and having climbed the steep heavenly hill, resembling strong youth in his middle age, mortal looks still adore his beauty, attending on his golden pilgrimage. But when from highmost pitch, with weary car (chariot of the sun-god), like feeble age, he reels from the day, the eyes, previously dutiful, are now turned from his low (earthly) track and look another way: so you, when you pass the zenith of your beauty, will die unlooked on unless you beget a son.
- 8: "Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?"
- The poet asks the fair youth why he is so serious when he listens to music, and then offers a reason. He says that the nature of music is trying to teach the young man a lesson; both the harmony of music and the sympathetic vibrations of lute strings should show him how his life would be enriched by having a family.
You whose voice is Music, why do you hear music sadly? Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy. Why do you love that which you receive not gladly, or else receive with pleasure what disturbs you? (The answer is that) if the true concord of well-tuned sounds, by harmonies married, do offend your ear, (it is because) they do but sweetly chide you, who destroys in remaining single the parts (of the harmony) that you should bear. Notice how one string, sweet husband to another, sounds with each of its partners, resembling sire and child and happy mother who all in one, one pleasing note do sing: whose wordless song, being many, seeming one, sings this to you: "You (remaining) unmarried will prove to be nothing."
- 9: "Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye"
- The poet tells the fair youth that he should marry even if he fears that he will die and leave behind a grieving widow.
Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye that you consume yourself in single life? Ah! if you shall happen to die issueless, the world will wail (for) you, like a mateless (widowed) wife; the world will be your widow and always weep that you have left behind no form of yourself, even though every individual widow may well keep her husband's image in mind by looking into their children's eyes. Look, whatever a spendthrift spends does but shift its place in the world because someone profits from that expense, but the waste of beauty profits no one in the world, and if it is kept unused, the user so destroys it. He who shamefully murders his own beauty by refusing to have children doesn't really love anyone else.
- 10: "For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any"
- The poet charges the fair youth with cold-heartedness and self-hatred, then pleads with him to prove himself "gracious and kind" by having a child.
For shame! deny that you bear love to any, who for yourself are so improvident. Grant, if you will, that you are beloved of many, but that you love no one is most evident; for you are so possessed with murderous hate that you do not hesitate to conspire against yourself . You seek to ruin that beauteous shelter (of family), though your chief desire should be to repair it. O, change your thinking, that I may change my mind (about you)! Shall self-hatred live in your beautiful self, and so have a more beautiful lodging than gentle love? Be, as thy appearance is, gracious and kind, or to yourself at least prove (to be) kind-hearted: make yourself another self, for love of me, so that your beauty may still live in yours or you.
- 11: "As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest"
- The poet uses various arguments to persuade the fair youth to produce children. He says that a child will preserve all the best of him; he says that if all people refused to have children, the world would come to an end; he says Nature intended ugly people to perish without having children, but beautiful people were created by Nature to be the pattern and parents of more beautiful people.
As fast as you shall wane, so fast you grow in a child of yours, in that quality, your beauty, from which you depart as you age; and that fresh blood which in youth you bestow upon your child you may call yours when you change from being a youth. Herein lives wisdom, beauty and increase: without these, folly, age and cold decay are all that remain: if all were of the same mind as you seem to be nowdetermined to not have childrensuccessive generations of men would cease and sixty years of life would make the world go away. Let those whom Nature has not made for a stock to draw upon, harsh, ill-favored and crudely formed, barrenly perish. In contrast, whomever Nature best endowedsuch as youshe gave the more; which bounteous gift you should cherish because of its bounty; she carved your for her seal, and meant thereby that you should print more copies of yourself, not let the original copy die.
- 12: "When I do count the clock that tells the time"
- Using a series of melancholy images, the poet makes the point that time destroys all beauty, which leads him to the conclusion that the only thing that can defend the fair youth against "Time's scythe" is "breed"begetting a child.
When I do count the clock that tells the time, and see the splendid day sunk in hideous night; when I behold the violet past its prime, and sable curls all silvered over with white; when lofty trees I see barren of leaves which in the past did canopy the herd from heat, and summer's green no longer green, but all girded up in sheaves borne on the harvest cart with white and bristly beard, then I do question myself about your beauty: I conclude that you among the things wasted or destroyed by time must go, since sweetness and beauty do themselves forsake sweet and beautiful things and die as fast as they see others, their descendants, grow; and nothing can make defense against Time's scythe except offspring, to defy Time when he takes you from here.
- 13: "O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are"
- The poet admonishes the fair youth that he does not own himself, but has only a lifetime lease. When the term of the lease expires, nothing of the fair youth will remain if he does not pass his form on to a child of his.
O, that you were your own essential self, the eternal you! But, love, you are no longer yours than you yourself can) live. In anticipation of the coming end of your life you should prepare, and give your sweet appearance to some other person. So should that beauty which you hold in lease find no ending, then you would become yourself again after your self's decease, when your sweet issue should bear your sweet form. Who lets so fair a house fall to decay, which prudent management in honor might uphold against the stormy gusts of winter's day and the barren rage of death's eternal cold? O, none but unthrifts! Dear my love, you know you had a father: let your son say he did, too.
- 14: "Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck"
- The poet says that he has can't forecast the weather, or feast or famine, but he can forecastfrom the "constant stars" of the fair youth's eyesthat "truth and beauty shall together thrive" if the fair youth produces children. Otherwise, when the fair youth dies, truth and beauty will die with him.
Not from the stars do I draw my predictions; and yet methinks I have mastered astrology, but not to predict good or evil luck, of plagues, of famine, or of seasons' quality; nor can I predict the every little thing, appointing to each minute its thunder, rain and wind, or tell princes if it (the election, battle, or war) shall go well, by common omens that I might find in heaven: But from your eyes my knowledge I derive, and in those constant stars I gather the knowledge that truth and beauty shall together thrive, if you would change from being only yourself to producing plenty of children for the benefit of future generations; or else of you this I predict: your end is truth's and beauty's doom and expiration date.
- 15: "When I consider every thing that grows"
- When the poet considers that everything grows only to die, the beauty of the fair youth becomes even more precious to him, and he says that as Time steals the youth's beauty, he will renew it by praising it in poetry.
When I consider everything that grows holds its perfection but a little moment, that this huge stage, the earth, presents nothing but shows whereon the stars in secret pull all the strings; when I perceive that men grow as plants grow, cheered and thwarted all the same by the self-same sky, vaunt themselves in their youthful sap, at their prime begin to decay, and wear their moment of beauty out of memory; then the concept of this inconstant stay on earth sets you most rich in youth before my sight, where wasteful Time debates with Decay, to change your day of youth to sullied night; and all in war with Time for love of you, as he takes from you, I engraft you new in my poetry.
- 16: "But wherefore do not you a mightier way"
- Continuing the thought of the previous stanza, in which he promised to write poetry which would defend the fair youth against the ravages of time, the poet asks the fair youth to take a better way, to "paint" his own portrait by having children who will resemble him.
But wherefore do you not in a mightier way make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time? And fortify yourself when you are past your prime with means more blessed (children) than my barren rhyme? Now you stand on the top of happy hours, and many maiden gardens yet unplanted with virtuous wish would bear your living flowers (your progeny), who will resemble you more closely than your painted portrait: so should the living lines of offspring which renew life, outdo this moment's paintbrush or my unpracticed pen, which neither in inward worth nor outward beauty can make you live yourself in the eyes of men. To give away yourself (to a wife) keeps yourself always, and so you will live on after death, your portrait drawn by your own sweet skill.
- 17: "Who will believe my verse in time to come"
- The poet says that if he wrote a poem that managed to do justice to all of the fair youth's beauties, future ages would think that he was guilty of crazy exaggeration. On the other hand, if the fair youth had living children, he would "live twice, in it [the child] and in my rhyme.
Who will believe my verse in time to come, if it were filled with your most high deserts? Even though heaven knows my poetry is but as a tomb which hides your life and shows not half your excellent qualities. If I could write the beauty of your eyes and in fresh verses number all of your graces, the age to come would say 'This poet lies: such heavenly touches never touched earthly faces.' So should my papers (yellowed with their age) be scorned like old men of less truth than speech, and your true praise be termed a poet's mad exaggeration and the overstretched meter of an antique song: but were some child of yours alive in that future time, you should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.
- 18: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
- The poet says that his beloved is more beautiful and longer-lived than summer because summer sometimes has bad weather and summer must end, but the poet's beloved will live in the poem as long as "men can breathe or eyes can see."
Shall I compare you to a summer's day? You are more lovely and less changeable. In contrast, rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer's lease has all too short an expiration date, and sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines, and often is his gold complexion dimmed by clouds, and every fair quality from beauty sometime declines, stripped of beauty by chance or nature's ever-changing course. But your eternal summer shall not fade nor lose possession of that beauty you own; nor shall Death brag you wander in his dark domain, when in eternal verses you will grow ever more beautiful as time goes on. So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this poem and this gives you eternal life.
- 19: "Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws"
- The poet tells Time that it can have its way with all the rest of the world, but it must not commit the "heinous crime" of making his beloved grow old and ugly. But in the concluding couplet the poet reverses himself, saying "Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong, / My love shall in my verse ever live young."
Devouring Time, you blunt 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 you flit away. And do whatever you will, swift-footed Time, to the wide world and all her fading sweets; but I forbid you the one most heinous crime: O, carve not with your hours my love's fair brow, nor draw any lines there with your antique pen; in the course of your travels leave him without blemishes so that he can be the perfect example of beauty for succeeding generations. Yet, do your worst, old Time: despite your wrong, my love shall in my verse ever live young.
- 20: "A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted"
- The poet half-jokingly laments that the fair youth is more beautiful than any woman and much less false. He reconciles himself to this state of affairs by saying that he will enjoy the young man's true, spiritual love, while women will treasure "thy love's use."
A woman's face painted with Nature's own hand have you, the master-mistress of my passion; you have a woman's gentle heart, but not a heart acquainted with shifting change, as is false women's fashion. Your eyes are more bright than theirs, less false in roving and in gilding the object whereupon they gaze. You are a man invested with beauty's hue, so much so that your hue sums up all beauty, which steals men's eyes and amazes women's souls. And for a woman were you first created, until Nature, as she made you, fell a-doting, and by addition she defeated my desire, by adding one thing which is nothing to my purpose. But since Nature pricked you out for women's pleasure, let your love be mine, and let the physical use of your love be women's treasure.
- 21: "So is it not with me as with that Muse"
- The poet compares the false and overblown love poetry of other poets with his honest poetry.
So is it not with me as with the sort of poet who is inspired by flashy artificial beauty. Such a poet uses heaven itself for ornament and couples his beloved's beauty with every fair thing in the universesun and moon, earth and sea's rich gems, April's first-born flowers, and all things rare that heaven's air in this huge sphere encompasses. O let me, true in love, only truly write, and then believe me, my love will be as fair as any mother's child, though not so bright as those "stars" that supposedly shine as brightly as golden candles in heaven's air. Let them say more that like to say what they hear everyone else saying; as for me, I will not overpraise anything that I don't intend to sell.
- 22: "My glass shall not persuade me I am old"
- The poet declares that he can never be old as long as his beloved is young.
My mirror shall not persuade me I am old, so long as youth and you are the same age; but when I behold time's furrows in your forehead, then I expect that my death will soon make amends for my life. For all that beauty that covers you is but the appropriate attire of my heart, which in your breast lives, as your your heart lives in mine: Then how can I then be older than you are? O, therefore, love, be so careful of yourself as Inot for myself, but for youwill be of myself because I carry your heart with me, which I will keep as carefully as a tender nurse guards her babe from all harm. Do not expect your heart back when mine is slain; you gave me yours, not to give back again.
- 23: "As an unperfect actor on the stage"
- The poet confesses that when he tries to tell his beloved of his love, speech fails him, so he asks his beloved to read what he has written and to "hear with eyes."
As an imperfect actor on the stage whose fear makes him forget his lines, or as some fierce thing replete with too much rage, whose abundance of strength weakens his own heart, so I, not trusting myself to say the right thing, forget to say the words that belong to the perfect ceremony of love's ritual. Thus in my own love's strength I seem to weaken, overcharged with the burden of my own love's might. O, let my books be then the eloquent and silent presenters of my speaking breast, who plead for love and hope to be loved in return better than another person who has spoken more than I have. O, learn to read what silent love has written: to hear with eyes belongs to love's keen perception.
- 24: "Mine eye hath play'd the painter and hath stell'd"
- In an elaborate extended metaphor, the poet tells his beloved that his eyes have engraved the image of the beloved in his heart. Yet, he concludes, his eyes can draw only "what they see, know not the heart."
My eye has played the painter and has fixed your beauty's form in the canvas of my heart; my body is the frame wherein it is held, and perspective (mental view or outlook, both literally [in his art] and figuratively) is the painter's art. For through the painter you must see his skill (style or perspective), to find where your true image pictured lies; which in my bosom's shop is hanging still (like a painting in a shop), that has its windows glazed with your eyes. Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done: my eyes have drawn your shape, and yours for me are windows to my breast, where-through the sun delights to peep, to gaze therein on you; yet eyes this skill lack to beautify their art; they draw but what they see, and know not the heart.
- 25: "Let those who are in favour with their stars"
- The poet looks down on those who are the favorites of princes, or who are famous for their victories in war, because the favorites will fall out of favor and the victories will be forgotten, but he has a love that will last forever.
Let those who are are favored by their fortunate stars boast of public honor and proud titles, while I, whom fortune bars from such triumphs, am surprised by a joy that I honor most. Great princes' favorites their fair leaves spread but as the marigold in the sun's eye, and any pride in themselves lies buried, for at a frown their glory dies. When the excellent warrior renowned for his skill, after a thousand victories, is once thwarted, he is razed completely from the book of honor, and everything for which he worked is forgotten. Then happy am I, who love and am beloved by one from whose heart I may not remove myself nor be removed.
- 26: "Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage"
- The poet apologizes for his poorly-written love message (the poem) and expresses the hope that his beloved will take it in the spirit in which it is meant.
Lord of my love, whose merit deserves my service and duty, to you I send this message, as a witness of my duty, not to display my wit: duty so great, which wit so poor as mine may make seem bare, because my wit lacks words to show it, unless as I hope some good perception of yours, coming from your soul's honest thought, will bestow worth on my words. That is all that I can hope for until whatever star that guides me points on me graciously with fair aspect and dresses my tattered loving in the fine apparel of fine poetry, to show me worthy of your sweet respect: then may I dare to boast how I do love you; until then I will not show my head where you might test me.
- 27: "Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed"
- The poet tells his beloved that when he goes to bed after a hard day his thoughts immediately begin "a zealous pilgrimage to thee," who seems to him "like a jewel hung in ghastly night."
Weary with toil, I hasten to my bed, which is the precious place of repose for tired limbs tired from travel. But then begins a journey in my head, which exercises my mind when my body's work is over: for then my thoughts, from afar, where I abide, set out upon a zealous pilgrimage to you, and keep my drooping eyelids open wide, gazing on darkness which the blind do see, except that my soul's imaginary sight presents your image to my sightless view, which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, makes black night beauteous and her old face new. Lo! this is how, by day my limbs, by night my mind, for you and for myself no quiet find.
- 28: "How can I then return in happy plight"
- Continuing the thought of the previous sonnet, the poet asks how he can ever get any rest, since both day and night torture him by prolonging his absence from his beloved.
How can I then return in a happy state, when I am barred the benefit of rest? When day's oppression is not eased by night, but the day's oppression is increased by the night's, and the night's oppression increased by the day's? And each, though enemies to each other's reign, do in consent shake hands and agree to torture me; the one tortures me by toil, the other by making me complain how far I toil, ever farther away from you. I tell the day, to please him, that you are bright and do him grace when clouds do blot the heaven; similarly, I flatter the dark-complexioned night by telling him that when sparkling stars are not seen, you adorn the evening. But day does daily draw my sorrows longer and night does nightly make grief's strength seem stronger.
- 29: "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes"
- The poet says that when he's most down on himself, if he should think of "thee" (his beloved) his spirit, "Like to the lark at break of day arising / From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate."
When, out of favor with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state and trouble deaf heaven with my useless cries and look upon myself and curse my fate, wishing myself more like to someone more rich in hope, handsomely featured like him, popular like him, desiring this man's creative talent and that man's wide range of knowledge and abilities, with my own best abilities contented least, yet almost despising myself for my own unhappiness, by chance I think of you, and then my emotional state, like the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate; for your sweet love called to mind such wealth brings that then I scorn to change my state with kings.
- 30: "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought"
- In this companion-piece to the previous sonnet, the poet says that when he starts feeling badly about opportunities missed, friends who have died, and love lost,he may chance to think of "thee" (his beloved), and then "All losses are restor'd, and sorrows end."
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh about the lack of many a thing I sought, and with old woes now wail anew the waste of my precious time: then can I drown an eye in tearsthough I seldom cryfor precious friends hidden in death's endless night, and weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe, and moan the loss of many a vanished sight. Then can I grieve at past grievances, and heavily from woe to woe go over the sad account of previously-bemoaned suffering, which I pay anew as if not paid before. But if during that time I think about you, dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end.
- 31: "Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts"
- Following up on the previous sonnet, the poet tells his beloved that all of those whom he loved before, but thought of as dead, have a new life in the bosom of his beloved, so that "thou, all they, hast all the all of me."
Your bosom is enriched with all the hearts of those who I have loved, which I, by missing them, had supposed dead, so that in your bosom reigns love and all love's loving attributes, and all those lovers who I thought dead. How many a holy and dutiful tear has devoted love stolen from my eye as interest due the dead, which now appear but things displaced that lie hidden in you. You are the grave where buried love does live, hung with the trophies of my former lovers, who all their shares of me to you did give. That due of many now is yours alone: their images that I loved I view in you, and you, plus all of them in you, have all the all of me.
- 32: "If thou survive my well-contented day"
- The poet asks his beloved to remember him after death for the sincere love expressed in his poetry.
If you survive my day of death, when that churl Death shall cover my bones with dust, and if you should by chance once more read over these poor rude lines of verse written by me, your deceased lover, compare them with better poetry produced by the passage of time, and though they be outstripped by every pen, keep them with you for the sake of my love, not for their rhyme, as the rhyme will be exceeded by the high poetic achievement of more fortunate men. O, then grant me only this loving thought: 'Had my friend's Muse grown with this growing age (of the Renaissance), his love for me would have brought forth a more precious creation than these lines of poetry, and that better poetry would have marched in the ranks of poetry more beautifully adorned: but since he died and later poets have proved to be better than him, their poetry I'll read for their style, his for his love of me.'
- 33: "Full many a glorious morning have I seen"
- The poet compares his beloved to the sun, which first shines gloriously, then disappears into clouds and darkness.
Full many a glorious morning have I seen the sun flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye, kissing with golden face the meadows green, adorning pale streams with heavenly alchemy; but the sun soon permits the basest clouds to ride with ugly rack on his celestial face, and from the forlorn world his visage hides, stealing unseen to west with this disgrace. Even so my sun one early morn did shine with all triumphant splendor on my brow; but out, alack! he was only one hour mine: the high clouds have masked him from me now. Yet my love for him is unchanged; suns of the world [i.e., beautiful, adored people] may stain [be less than glorious] when heaven's sun does stain.
- 34: "Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day"
- Using the same metaphor as in the previous sonnet, the poet wonders if he can forgive his beloved for leaving him in the dark.
Why did you promise such a beauteous day, and make me travel forth without my cloak, only to let dark clouds overtake me on my way, hiding your splendor in their foul vapors? It's not enough that through the clouds you break, to dry the rain on my storm-beaten face, for no man can speak well of such a salve that heals the wound and cures not the humiliation of being mistreated. Nor can your remorse cure my grief; though you repent, yet I still have the trauma. The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief to him that bears the strong offense's affliction. Ah! but those tears are pearls which your love sheds, and they are rich and compensate for all ill deeds.
- 35: "No more be grieved at that which thou hast done"
- Having been betrayed by his beloved, the poet tries to make excuses for "that sweet thief which sourly robs from me."
Be grieved no more at that which you have done: roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud; clouds and eclipses darken both moon and sun, and the loathsome canker worm lives in the sweetest flower bud. All men make mistakes, and I am making one even now by enabling your trespass with metaphors (about fountains, roses, clouds, etc.), and am corrupting myself by glossing over your mistakes, excusing you more than your sins are worth: For to your sensual misdeed I bring in reasonso that your adverse party is your advocatecommencing a lawful plea against myself. Such civil war is in my love and hate of you that I must be an accessory to that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.
- 36: "Let me confess that we two must be twain"
- The poet accepts that he and his beloved can never be together for long, even though their love is true.
Let me confess that we two must be separated, although our undivided loves are one. Being separated, those blots on my reputation will stay with me alone, and you won't have to share that burden. In our two loves there is but one concern, though spiteful fate has separated us, which though it doesn't alter love's sole effect, yet it steals sweet hours from love's delight. I may not acknowledge you from now on, lest my bewailed guilt should do you shame, nor can you with public kindness honor me, unless you take that honor from your name: but do not so; I love you in such a way that, you being mine, your reputation also belongs to me.
- 37: "As a decrepit father takes delight"
- Expanding on the final thought of the previous sonnet, the poet compares himself to "a decrepit father" who delights in his child's accomplishments, and feels himself enriched by them.
As a decrepit father takes delight to see his active child do deeds of youth, so I, made lame by fortune's personal spite, take all my comfort from your worth and truth. For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit, or any of these all, or all, or more, may be crowned king of all your good qualities, I graft my love onto this rich collection of attributes: so then I am not lame, poor, nor despised while my love for you, which is the mere shadow of your splendor, does such substance give that I in your abundance am satisfied and by a part of all your glory live. Look, whatever is best, that best I wish to see in you: this wish is fulfilled; then ten times happy me!
- 38: "How can my Muse want subject to invent"
- The poet gives all credit for his poetry to his beloved, whose excellencies must inspire anyone.
How can my Muse lack a subject to inspire invention while you do breathe, you who pour into my verse the sweet subject matter of yourself, which is too excellent for any ordinary poem to portray? O, give yourself the thanks, if anything I write be worthy of perusal in your sight; for who's so mute that he cannot write of you, when you yourself do give creativeness light? If you be the tenth Muse, you are ten times more in worth than those old nine muses which rhymers invocate; and he that calls on you, let him bring forth eternal verses to outlive a great span of time. If my slight Muse pleases these critical times, the labor be mine, but yours shall be the praise.
- 39: "O! how thy worth with manners may I sing"
- Separated from his beloved fair youth, the poet muses on the ways that two can be one.
O, how your worth with properly poetic manners may I sing, when you are all the better part of me? What can my own praise to my own self bring? And what is it but my own praise when I praise thee? Because of this let us live apart, and our dear love will lose the name of a single union, so that by this separation I may give that due to you which you alone deserve. O absence, what a torment would you prove to be, were it not that your sour leisure gave sweet permission to entertain the time with thoughts of love; love, which time and thoughts so sweetly do deceive, and were it not that you, absence, teach me how to imagine that two are one, by praising him here who does remain far away from here.
- 40: "Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all"
- Possibly commenting on a love triangle in which the poet's beloved young man has become the lover of a woman beloved by the poet, the poet orders his beloved to take all of his other loves, but then adds that no matter what, the love between the two of them must survive.
Take all my loves, my beloved, yea, take them all. What have you then more than you had before? No love, my beloved, that you may call true love, for all my true love was yours before you had this additional love. Then if for the sake of my love for you, you receive the love of my loved one, I cannot blame you for using my love in order to use my loved one in a loving way; but yet be blamed, if you deceive this self (myself) by willfully tasting what you yourself intend to refuse. I do forgive your robbery, gentle love-thief, although you steal all of the little I have left, and yet, as love knows, it is a greater grief to bear love's wrong than hate's known injury. You, lascivious grace, in whom all ill looks well, go ahead and kill me with acts of spite, yet we must not be foes at heart.
- 41: "Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits"
- The poet tells his beloved young man that he knows that there are naturally times when playful transgressions with a woman will take place, but asks him to control himself.
Those pretty wrongs that (being at) liberty commits, when I am sometime absent from your heart, are fitting to your beauty and your youth, for temptation always follows you wherever you go. Refined you are and therefore to be persuaded, beauteous you are, therefore to be attempted; and when a woman woos, what son born of woman will sourly leave her before she has prevailed? Ay me! but yet you might yet refrain from giving away my place in your affections, and chide your beauty and your straying youth, who join together to lead you in their sensual indulgences to the point that you are forced to break a double integrity: her integrity, by your beauty tempting her to you, and your integrity, by your beauty leading you to being false to me.
- 42: "That thou hast her, it is not all my grief"
- The fair youth is having an affair with a lady loved by the poet, who tries to make himself believe that it is all because they both love him.
That you have her is not all of my grief, and yet it may be said I loved her dearly. That she has you, is the chief cause of my wailing, a loss in love that touches me more nearly. Loving offenders, thus I will excuse you both: you do love her, because you know I love her; and for my sake even so does she betray me, allowing my friend's attentions to prove her worthy of my love. If I lose you, my loss is my other love's gain, and in my losing her, my friend has found what I have lost; both find each other, and I lose both, and both for my sake lay on me this cross. But here's the joy: my friend and I are one so I sweetly flatter myself to think therefore she loves but me alone.
- 43: "When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see"
- Using a lot of word play, the poet declares that he can see better with his eyes shut in sleep because then he sees only the image of his beloved.
When I close my eyes the most, then do my eyes see best, for all the day they view things at random; but when I sleep, in dreams they look on you, and darkly bright, are clearly focussed. Then you, whose shadow [i.e., dream image] makes shadows bright, how would your shadow's form make happy show to the clear day with your much clearer light, when to unseeing eyes your shade shines so! How would, I say, my eyes be made blessed by looking on you in the living day, when in dead night your fair imperfect shade through heavy sleep on sightless eyes does stay! All days are look like nights till I see you, and nights are bright days when dreams do show you to me.
- 44: "If the dull substance of my flesh were thought"
- The poet wishes that he were all thought, so that he could leap earth and water to be with his beloved.
If the dull substance of my flesh were thought, injurious distance should not stop my way; for then despite the distance I would be brought from the remote boundaries of the earth to the place where you do stay. Then it would not matter if my foot did stand upon the part of the earth farthest removed from you; for nimble thought can jump both sea and land as soon as think of the place where it wants to be. But ah! it kills me to think that I am not thought, not able leap large lengths of miles when you are gone, but that there is so much of earth and water between us that I must attend time's leisure with my moan, receiving nothing by elements so slow [i.e., earth and water] but heavy tears, badges of the woe of both.
- 45: "The other two, slight air and purging fire"
- In the previous sonnet the poet said that the absence of his beloved made him melancholy, and so composed of nothing but the heavy elements: earth and water. Now, speaking to his absent beloved, the poet says that his lighter elements, air (thought) and fire (desire) are always with the beloved, no matter where the poet is.
The other two elements [besides earth and water, mentioned in the previous sonnet], slight air and purging fire, are both with you, wherever I am; the first, air, is my thought, the other, fire, is my desire: these present-absent elements with swift motion slide back and forth between us. For when these quicker elements are gone in tender embassy of love to you, my life, being naturally made of four elements, with just two alone sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy until life's natural composition be restored by those swift messengers returned from you, who even but now come back again, assured of your fair health, recounting it to me: this told, I am joyful, but then no longer glad, I send them back again and immediately grow sad.
- 46: "Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war"
- With a great display of antimetabole, the poet declares that his eye owns his beloved's outward appearance and his heart owns the "inward love."
My eye and my heart are at a war to the death over which one owns the sight of you. My heart would bar your image from my eye and my eye would deny my heart the freedom of the heart's right. My heart pleads that you lie within his most inward enclosure, but my eye denies the heart's plea and contends that your fair appearance belongs to it. To decide who has title, a jury of thoughts are convened to determine the verdict as thus: my eye is due your outward part, while my heart has the rights to your "inward love of heart."
- 47: "Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took"
- In the previous sonnet the poet said that his eye and heart were at war; now he says that an alliance has been formed between the two, so that the image of his beloved always fills his heart with delight.
Between my eye and my heart an alliance has been formed, and each does good turns now for the other: when my eye is famished for a look at you, or my heart smothers himself with sighs due to love of you, then with my love's picture my eye does feast and to the banquet invites my heart; another time my eye is my heart's guest and does share a part of his thoughts of love. So, either because of your picture or the existence of my love, you yourself even though away are always with me. For you are not farther away than my thoughts can move, and I am still with them and they with you; or, if my thoughts sleep, your picture in my sight awakes my heart to heart's and eye's delight.
- 48: "How careful was I, when I took my way"
- The poet says that when he took a journey he locked up everything so it wouldn't be stolen, except the one thing most precious to him, which could not be locked up: his beloved, who he fears will steal away from him.
How careful I was when I went on my way; every little thing was locked away so that no one would steal it. But you (in comparison to whom my greatest treasures are trifles), you who are my greatest comfort and my greatest sorrow, you who are best of all I hold dear and my only concern, are now the prey of every common thief. I have not locked you up in any chest, except where you are not present (though I feel you there), in my heart, from where you may come and go as you please; and even from there I fear you will be stolen, because truth can act like a thief when tempted by a prize so dear.
- 49: "Against that time, if ever that time come"
- This sonnet is a futurecasta lamentation of love to be lost.
In anticipation of that time (should that time ever come) when you might frown on my shortcomings, when your love has reached its highest peak (called to that internal assessment by thoughtful consideration); in preparation for the time when you may pass by like a stranger, and barely greet me with your shimmering glance, when love will have transformed from what it was to some settled seriousness: in anticipation of that time, I make myself secure in the knowledge of my own (lack of) deserving. And I raise my hand as if to testify (against my own interests) that you have lawful reasons to leave me since I can think of no cause to love me.
- 50: "How heavy do I journey on the way"
- On a journey away from his beloved, the poet and his horse both mourn every step.
How heavy do I journey on the way, when what I seek, my weary travel's end, does teach ease and repose to say,'Thus far the miles are measured away from your friend!' The beast that bears me, tired with my woe, plods dully on, to bear that weight in me, as if by some instinct the wretch did know his rider loved not speed, being made away from you: the bloody spur that my anger sometimes thrusts into his hide cannot provoke him to speed up; heavily he answers the angry spur with a groan, more sharp to me and my feelings than the spur to his side; for that same groan does put this in my mind; my grief lies onward and my joy remains behind.
- 51: "Thus can my love excuse the slow offence"
- Reversing the message of he previous sonnet, the poet describes the joyful speed of his return to his beloved.
Thus can my love excuse the slow offense of my dull beast of burden when I speed away from you: from where you are why should I hasten myself thence? Till I return, of hurrying is no need. But when I do return, oh, what excuse will my poor beast then find, when extreme swiftness can seem but slow to me? Then should I spur my beast on, though mounted on the wind; in winged speed no motion shall I know: then can no horse keep pace with my desire. Therefore since desire is made of the most perfect love, desire will neigh, not in the dull flesh but in love's fiery race. But love, for the sake of love, thus shall excuse my nag; since as he traveled away from you he went willfully slow, towards you I'll run, and give him permission to walk.
- 52: "So am I as the rich, whose blessed key"
- The poet compares himself (and his hope of once again seeing his beloved) to the situation of a rich man, who views his treasure and his finest clothes only on special occasions, which makes them all the more precious.
So am I as the rich man, whose blessed key can bring him to his sweet locked-up treasure, the which he will not look upon every hour, to keep from blunting the fine point of seldom taken pleasure. For this same reason are feasts so solemn and so rare, since, seldom coming, they are in the long year spaced like the main jewels in a carcanet, a jeweled collar. Even so is my time away from you: that time keeps you as my treasure chest, or as the wardrobe which hides the holiday clothes, making some special moment especially blessed, by the unfolding anew of clothes which had been hidden away. Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives me a range of pleasures: when I have you I celebrate, and when I lack you I live in happy hope.
- 53: "What is your substance, whereof are you made"
- The poet praises his beloved's beauty and constant heart.
What is your substance, what are you made of, that millions of shadows attend on you? I ask since every one has only one shadow, but you, though only one person, are the substance of a multitude of shadows. Describe Adonis, and the description is poorly imitated after you; on Helen's cheek all art of beauty is set, and so you in Grecian attire are painted anew. Speak of the spring and abundance of the year: the one shows a shadow of your beauty, the other shows your bounty, and you are in every blessed shape we know. In all external grace you have some part, but you are like no one, no one is like you for loyal heart.
- 54: "O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem"
- The poet exclaims how much more beautiful is beauty itself when truth is added. As an example, he compares the true rose to the dog rose which lacks the perfume of truth, saying that both blooms are equal in color, but the dog rose is useless once it dies, unlike true roses which live on in perfumes and sachets. The poet tells the lovely youth that he would be in the same situation as the dog rose if it were not for the poet's ability to distill the poetic truth of his youth and beauty when that shall fade and die.
- 55: "Not marble, nor the gilded monuments"
- The poet assures his beloved that neither marble nor gilded monuments shall outlive his powerful poetry in which the beloved shall shine bright. Although war shall destroy statues, stonework and brickwork, the beloved's repute is safe, as all future generations (which will wear out the world until the ending doom) shall hear the poet's rhymed praise. Thus the beloved dwells (lives) in the lover's eyes, and shall live on in poetry until the final judgment and the ascent to heaven (where the beloved will live for all eternity).
- 56: "Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said"
- In the absence of his beloved, the poet addresses love itself, who he asks to renew its force, so that it is as least as sharp as the edge of hunger, which even when fully satisfied, renews itself daily. Similarly, though the hungry eyes of love shall feast until full, the poet asks love to look afresh on the morrow so that the spirit of love is renewed rather than dulled. Then, using a different simile, the poet compares the time apart from his beloved to an ocean which separates a newly engaged couple. For each lover, coming daily to stand on the banks of that ocean makes their reunion all the more blessed. Finally, again changing similes, the poet compares the "sad int'rim" to winter which is filled with burdens, and so makes summer more wished-for and more precious.
- 57: "Being your slave, what should I do but tend"
- The poet laments his powerlessness in relation to his beloved; he calls himself a slave (to love) and asks what else he has to do in life except tend to the beloved's desires at the hours and times required. The poet discounts the value of his own time and services unless the beloved requires them. He also dares not complain about the time he spends waiting for the return of his beloved, nor does he dare venture guesses about the beloved's activities. Instead the poet thinks of nothing but the beloved. The final couplet calls love itself a fool for living only at the pleasure of the beloved, who may do anything because love thinks no ill.
- 58: "That god forbid that made me first your slave"
- This is a companion-piece to the previous sonnet. Both concern the lover's enslavement to the beloved. The poet declares that the same god which delivered him into the slavery of love now forbids him to control even in thought when or how his beloved chooses to please himself. The poet adds that his vassalage dictates subordination which is bound to await the next command without the right to question. Moreover, the poet wants to suffer for and because of the beloved, wants to feel the imprisoning lack of freedom and to endure the patience which is trained to endure anything, and to submit to rebuke without returning the injury. The slave submits to the beloved's privilege, and he acknowledges that the beloved may grant himself pardon from any crime of the heart that he may commit. Thus, the only thing that the poet can cling to is waiting though his waiting hurts as much as hell because the beloved is presumed blameless, no matter what he does.
- 59: "If there be nothing new, but that which is"
- The poet is wondering whether anything exists which is new in the world at all different from what came before; if not, how our brains are charmed by attempts at originality which may go so far as to reformulate past literary works. The poet wishes the antique works of 500 years before were available, so he could look for the image of the beloved in previous writing. Then he could see if the wonder of the beloved's form was expressed better. He concludes that though the past is long ago, time may not matter; previous poets may have praised less deserving subjects.
- 60: "Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore"
- The poet says that just as waves move toward the shore, so do the minutes allotted each of us hurry to their end, each one changing places with the one before, and thus infancy crawls to maturity, whereupon maturity begins the descent to old age. And Time that has made life possible, now ruins his gifts by piercing through youth's outward decoration, digging parallel lines into previously smooth foreheads and feeding on the true rarities of nature. Nothing stands that is not subject to the scythe of time. Nonetheless, the poet declares that his verses which praise his beloved will reach future generations despite the cruel hand of time's devastation.
- 61: "Is it thy will thy image should keep open"
- The poet addresses his absent beloved, asking if his intent is to keep the poet sleepless while shadows mimic the beloved's image. He asks if the beloved's spirit has been sent to track his activities due to jealous suspicions engendered by excessive love, However, he answers his own questions by concluding that it is not the love of the beloved, but his love (the greater love) which keeps him awake wondering what the beloved is doing nights with him so far away and others all too near the beloved.
- 62: "Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye"
- The poet confesses to being possessed by the sin of self-love in every part of his body and soul. No remedy is possible since the love is rooted deep in his heart: so deep that he thinks no face as gracious as his, no shape so true, no truth of such reckoning─so great that the poet defines his own standards of worth and knows himself to be worthier than all others. However, when his mirror shows him his own battered, sun-dried face, his self-love kicks in to transform and redefine the image of reality. He rationalizes that his self-love would be wicked, were not the beloved and the poet one, so that when he praises himself he is really praising his beloved, who is truly worthy of the praise.
- 63: "Against my love shall be, as I am now"
In anticipation of the time when my love shall be as old and worn as I am now; when his complexion is pale and his forehead filled with deep wrinkles, when the morning of his youth has changed to the steep night of age and all those beauties now at his command have vanished or are vanishing, stealing away the treasure of his youth: For such a time I now prepare defenses against the destroyer Age, with its cruel knife, so that my sweet love's beauty shall never be forgotten, even though age will take my lover's life: His beauty shall in these verses be seen and the verses shall live and he in them shall still be young.
- 64: "When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced"
When I have seen Time's savage hand deface the monuments of antiquity which were once magnificent, proud and costly; when I see once lofty towers razed and eternal brass subject to mortal rage; when I have seen the hungry ocean wear away the land and the land take over the ocean; when I have seen such an interchange of conditions, or greatness itself reduced to decay, all this ruination has taught me to turn matters over in my mind and conclude that Time will come and take my love away. This thought is as a death; the only choice is to weep at having that which must be lost.
- 65: "Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea"
Since sad mortality (the sad fate of death for all who live) overrules the power of brass, stone, earth and boundless sea, how against this destructive power shall beauty have a chance, whose strength is no stronger than a flower? How shall summer's honey breath hold out against the attack of battering days, when time decays impregnable rocks and gates of steel? Oh, fearful contemplation! Can anything evade Time? Can anyone stop the ravages of time? Nothing survives untouched, unless the miracle of written words might allow my love to shine bright after my death.
- 66: "Tired with all these, for restful death I cry"
- The poet cries out for death when he thinks of the long list of society's injustices: namely the deserving who are forced to be beggars, the undeserving dressed in finery, the purest faith evilly betrayed, decorated honor shamefully damaged, the virtue of virginity rudely portrayed as whoredom, perfect perfection wrongfully labeled disgrace, strength checked by incompetent authority, art suppressed by authority, folly controlling skill, simple truth misnamed foolishness, good attendants captive to a bad captain. Weary of all these travesties, the poet would be gone, except that dying would leave his love alone.
- 67: "Ah! wherefore with infection should he live"
- The poet wonders why his beloved friend should have to live in a world replete with ills (the infections listed in the preceding sonnet). His very presence enhances impiety so that sin gains advantage when it adorns itself with his society. Why should cosmetics imitate his cheek and steal the lifeless appearance of his living hue? Why should beauty inferior to his seek to imitate his true colors? And why should he live now nature itself is bankrupt, without blood to blush the lively cheek? Nature has no better representative to guard her treasures now but his, and though she boasts of others, she survives mainly upon his bounty (of beauty): him she preserves to show what wealth she had in days long since before the inferior present.
- 68: "Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn"
- The poet continues the homage to his beloved friend from the preceding sonnet by praising the naturalness of his beauty as a contrast to the recent unnatural practices of cosmetic adulteration with makeup or tresses of the dead. His beauty shows us what true beauty was in the good old times, the "days outworn." Thus his beauty is in sync with the beauty of flowers which live and die in a natural rhythm. Before cosmetics became fashionable or dared to dwell on a living brow and before the golden tresses of the dead were shorn away to live a second life on a second head, before hair from the dead decorated the living, the revered standards of beauty from ancient times were evident in the beloved, whose beauty is unadorned and true, making no renewed summer of another's youth. In fact Nature preserves the beloved's beauty to use it as a standard to show up the current false art of beauty and demonstrate the superior beauty of the past.
- 69: "Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view"
- The poet's tribute to his beloved friend continues from the preceding sonnet when the poet declares that his friend's outward appearance lacks nothing that imagination could supply and he is not the only one who thinks so: all voices agree, even foes. Thus he is crowned with outward praise on his appearance, but those same voices speak differently about the beauty of his mind which they deduce from his actions: they become churls (although their eyes were kind) and add the rank smell of weeds to the flower of his beauty. Then the poet tells his beloved that his weedy odor does not match his outward display because his recent deeds are base and he is becoming common.
- 70: "That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect"
- The poet continues the tribute to his beloved friend. The previous sonnet raised the possibility that his friend could be blamed for his deeds, but the poet begins this sonnet by declaring that being blamed shall not be his friend's "defect" (fault) even though he will often be the object of slander since slander's targets are always the beautiful, and the ornament of beauty is suspicion, which is like a crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air. Then the poet addresses his friend directly about the likelihood of future slander by others and its effects. He tells his beloved friend that if he is only good, slander will only prove his worth the greater since he is courted to adopt the ways of the world (and slandered when he does not). The poet adds an example: The rose worm (which represents slander) loves the sweetest buds, and his beloved friend is a sweet bud, with an unspotted youth. The poet tells his beloved friend that he has dodged the ambush of young days (the temptations usual in inexperienced youth), either by not being attacked or by overcoming temptation when attacked. Then the poet adds a twist, and tells his beloved that he cannot be praised for his perfection, after all. There are two reasons. First, such praise cannot be counted upon to bind envy, and, second, if some suspicion of misdeeds did not shadow his worth, his beloved would be the only the king of hearts.
- 71: "No longer mourn for me when I am dead"
- In a mood that is perhaps cynical, perhaps just whimsical, the poet leaves instructions for his beloved friend should the poet die: don't mourn for me when I am dead; and if you read this line, don't remember I wrote it, for I love you so that I don't want anyone to mock you because of your love for me.
- 72: "O, lest the world should task you to recite"
- The poet advises his beloved on what to do after his death: forget me entirely if others should ask for a recital of my merit, for you can prove nothing unless you were to devise some lie about my virtue which would do more for me than I deserve or drape me with more praise than stingy truth would willingly impart. Speaking better of me than I deserve may be attributed to love and make your true love seem false, so let my name be buried with my body, so it will live no more to embarrass you or me; for I am shamed by that which I have written, as should you be for loving something worthless.
- 73: "That time of year thou mayst in me behold"
- To represent the time of his own life, the poet uses three separate metaphors of decline: a tree in late autumn, a day at twilight, and a dwindling fire. The poet concludes by complimenting his beloved on the strength of love which loves well that which must soon be left.
- 74: "But be contented: when that fell arrest"
- As in the previous sonnet, the poet speaks about his own death, explaining to his beloved that sadness is unnecessary because the poet's spiritwhich is the better part of his existence, and which is embodied in his poetrywill remain behind with his beloved.
- 75: "So are you to my thoughts as food to life"
- The poet says to his beloved, "you to my thoughts as food to life," but then goes on to say that the bliss that comes from the poet's love contains the same strife that exists between a miser and his money: now the miser is a proud possessor and then he fears that thieving time will steal his treasure, just as the poet first it a blessing to be alone with his beloved, but then thinks that it would be even better to have the whole world as witness to their love. Sometimes he feels content with feasting upon the sight of his beloved, but later feels starved for a glimpse, as if no other pastime contained any joy, except the joy he derives from his beloved. Thus his thoughts make him starve and gorge between thoughts of doubt and joy.
- 76: "Why is my verse so barren of new pride"
- The poet asks why his verse lacks new, fashionable ornamentation or variation in style and why he continues to write as he always has, always speaking in the same voice, so that every word he writes almost speaks his name. The poet answers his own question by telling his "sweet love" that his themes are always love and the beloved himself. The poet's greatest talent lies dressing up old words anew to tell old truths, just as the sun is new and old every day.
- 77: "Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear"
- Apparently this sonnet accompanied the gift of a book of blank pages; the lines compare the relative benefits of a mirror, a sundial and the book.
Paraphrase: Your mirror will show you how your beauties wear away, your sundial will show how your time wears away; the blank pages will bear your thoughts ("thy mind's imprint"), so you may taste the benefit of mental profit ("learning"). The wrinkles which your mirror will truly reflect will remind you of the approach of the all-devouring grave; the shadow's progress around your sundial will make you acknowledge time's thievish progress to eternity. Pay attention to the book where you may write all the facts and thoughts that memory cannot contain; fill these blank pages and you shall find children (of thought) delivered and preserved from your brain, to yield fresh meaning to the products of your mind. These observances, as often as you will write, will profit you and much enrich your book.
- 78: "So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse"
So often have I called upon you as my guiding spirit and source of inspiration and found such propitious assistance that every other poet has adopted my practice and circulated his poetry under your patronage. Your eyes that taught the dumb to sing aloud and the heavily ignorant to fly aloft, have enabled the learned poets to reach new heights and have given the grace of majesty. Yet be most proud of what I compose, because you are my only influence and inspiration. In the work of other poets you only improve the style, and add more grace to their art, but you are all my art and elevate me from ignorance to wisdom.
- 79: "Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid"
- The poet continues his complaint that his beloved Muse's favor is being sought (and found) by a rival poet.
When I was the only one who sought your patronage, only my poetry had your gentle grace, but now my gracious verse has deteriorated and my sick Muse gives another (my) place. I grant you, sweet love, that your loveliness deserves the labor of a worthier poet (!), yet whatever your new poet invents, he robs from you and then returns it to you again. He lends you the virtue he stole from (observing) your behavior; he gives you beauty that he found in your face ("cheek"). He can offer you no praise, but what lives in you. So, thank him not for what he speaks, since what he owes you, you yourself pay.
- 80: "O, how I faint when I of you do write"
- The poet compares himself to the rival poet.
Oh how I feel weak and dejected when I write of you, knowing that a better poet writes poetry about you and uses all his strength and ability to make me awe-stricken when he speaks of your virtues. But since your worth is as wide as the ocean, you can bear the humble as well as the proudest sail; my presumptuous ship is far inferior to his which on your broad main does freely float. The smallest help from you will keep me afloat, while he rides upon your fathomless depths. Or if I am wrecked I am merely a worthless boat, while is large and strongly constructed and has great splendor. So, if he thrives (under your patronage) and I am shipwrecked, the worst thing about this situation would be this: my love was my ruin.
- 81: "Or I shall live your epitaph to make"
- The poet assures his beloved friend that his name and his virtues will live on in the minds of men: the virtues of the poet's pen will make the beloved's name and attributes famous throughout time.
Either I will live to write your epitaph or you will survive me while I rot inside the earth; once I am gone, death cannot rob you of my memory, although each part of my body will be forgotten. From that point forward your name will be famous. My body will be buried in the earth (the common grave of millions) while your image will live on in the eyes of men. Your monument will be my gracious poetry, which eyes not yet created shall read the poetry over and rehearse your part when all the men now breathing now are dead: you will live always (due to the virtues of my pen)—where breath most breathes even in the mouths of men.
- 82: "I grant thou wert not married to my Muse"
- Returning to the theme of a rival poet or poets, the poet grants that his beloved is free to peruse other writers' poetic tributes. The poet admits that the beloved is as intelligent as beautiful, and knows it. Therefore the beloved is entitled seek out better praise than the poet can give. However, the poet warns that the only thing the beloved will receive is "strained touches" of rhetoric, and should know that natural beauty is best praised "In true plain words by thy true-telling friend," who is, naturally, the poet himself. The poet concludes that extravagant praise might work better on a less deserving subjectsomeone who actually needs it to make up for a bloodless complexion.
- 83: "I never saw that you did painting need"
- The poet justifies himself in relation to rival poets.
Your beauty has never required exaggeration ("painting"); instead, I found (or thought I found) you exceeded the unworthy offering due from a poet. Therefore I have written no poem because your very existence well might demonstrate how far short a contemporary ("modern") pen falls in attempting to describe the worth which is within you. You imputed my silence to be a sin, when it should be my glory, because being mute is better than impairing your beauty as others have done. Those others think to bring your beauty to life, but have brought a tomb instead. There lives more life in one of your beautiful eyes than both I and my rival poet can produce in praise.
- 84: "Who is it that says most? which can say more"
- The poet tells the fair youth that the best praise of him is simply that he is himself, but then adds a bit of sharp criticism.
Who is that says the most about your worth? Who can say more than that you are yourself? Who contains the rich resources which would be required to produce an example of another person equal to you? It is a very poor poet which does not confer some honor upon the subject of his poetry, but he that writes of you and can tell that you are you, so dignifies his story that let him but copy what is written in you, not worsening what nature made so glorious, and such a copy shall make him famous, making his style admired everywhere. (However) you to your beauteous blessings add a curse by doting upon praise, which diminishes the praise due you.
- 85: "My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still"
- The poet tells his beloved friend and sometime patron and Muse that even though he is not currently creating poetry like other poets who are writing highly polished poetry of praise for his patron, he deserves respect for the power of his unspoken thoughts which have the same effect as speech.
My tongue-tied Muse politely keeps silent, while elaborations of your praise, richly composed, preserve the character of their compositions with golden quill pens and precious phrases polished and refined from all the classical mythological Muses. I think good thoughts while others write good words, and like a priest's illiterate assistant, cry "Amen" to every hymn that any capable poet produces in polished form with a well-refined pen. Hearing you praised, I say, "'Tis so, 'tis true," and to the utmost of the praise add something more; but that which I add lives in my thoughts, whose love to you, though words come last, always hold first place in my heart. Then respect those other poets for their breath of words, but respect me for my unspoken thoughts which have the quality of speech.
- 86: "Was it the proud full sail of his great verse"
- The poet tells the fair youth that when his beauty became the subject of the rival poet's verse, he lacked inspiration and wrote feeble verse.
Was it the "proud full sail of his great verse" which was bound for the capture of all too precious you that buried my ripe thoughts, making their tomb the womb within which they were born? Was it his spirit, by other spirits taught to write above a mortal height that struck me dead? No, neither he, nor the spirits of his dreams stunned me into silence. I have not been vanquished by him or that affable familiar spirit which deceptively provides him with ideas. I was not sick with fear of my rival, but when your beauty became the subject of his verse, then I lacked my only subject matter, and that made my verse feeble.
- 87: "Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing"
- The poet says farewell to his beloved, because the beloved is far more precious than the poet to keep as his own.
Farewell! You are too precious for me to possess, and you probably know your own value: the privilege conferred by your worth permits you to release me. My bonds to you are all ending. For how do I hold on to you, but by your permission? And for that wealth where is my deserving? The cause of this fair gift in me is lacking, and so my title to you is returning. You gave yourself to me when you did not know your own worth, or you overestimated me, so the great gift of yourself which grew out of a misunderstanding comes back again once you make a better judgment. Thus I have had you, as a dream flatters you into thinking you're a king, but upon waking there's really nothing.
- 88: "When thou shalt be disposed to set me light"
- The poet declares his utter devotion to his beloved by saying that if the beloved should someday come to despise him, he would side with the beloved and willingly make up disgraceful stories about himself; the injuries these fictions would inflict upon himself would be to his advantage as they would gratify the poet's feelings of love and belonging.
When you become disposed to despise me, and scorn my worth, I will side against myself; I'll fight and prove you virtuous though you are perjured. Since I am best acquainted with my own weakness, I can write down a story in support of your opinions of faults concealed, how I am disgraced so that in losing me you shall win much glory and I will become a gainer too. For focusing all my loving thoughts on you, the injuries I do to myself will advantage you and double-advantage me. Such is my love, to you I so belong, that for your right I will bear all wrong.
- 89: "Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault"
- Following up on the previous sonnet, the poet tells his beloved that if he should abandon him, he will help his beloved degrade himself, for the poet must never love any person the beloved hates.
If it should happen that you abandon me for some fault of mine, I will enlarge upon that offense, showing that you are absolutley correct about me; speak of my lameness and I will immediately start to limp, making no defense against your criticism of me. You cannot, love, discredit me half as much as I can disgrace myself. If I know it is your will, I will put an end to our familiarity and act like a stranger, be absent from our haunts and no longer speak your sweet, beloved name, so that I will not profane your name by letting it slip that we were ever acquainted. For you I will quarrel against myself, for I must never love him whom you hate.
- 90: "Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now"
- In the previous sonnet, the poet said that he would hate himself if his beloved hated him. Now he says that if his beloved is going to hate him, it should be announced immediately, while things are not going well, in order to put his petty woes in perspective, as those woes will seem insignificant compared to the loss of his beloved.
If you are going to hate me, do it now, while the world is determined to frustrate everything I try to do. Join with the spite of fortune, humiliate me, and do not wait until later to inflict a loss on top of the losses I am already suffering. Ah, do not, when my heart has escaped my present sorrow, give me a woe following a woe I managed to survive; in other words, do not give a windy night a rainy tomorrow. You may want to delay giving the pain you have already decided to give, but don't do it. If you are going to leave me, do not leave me only me at long last, when other petty griefs have done their harm. Come right away so I shall first taste the very worst of fortune's might, and so other kinds of woe, which now seem woeful, will not seem so, compared with the loss of you.
- 91: "Some glory in their birth, some in their skill"
- The poet declares that, unlike other men who have their particular passions, he delights in the love of his beloved above all else: his only worry is the beloved's ability to withdraw his love and make him wretched.
Some glory in their noble birth, some in their skill, some in their wealth, some in their bodies' physical strength, some in their attire (though fashionably ugly), some in their hawks and hounds, and some in their horses. And every temperament has its attendant pleasure in which it finds joy above the rest: but these particulars are not my criterion of happiness. All these I surpass in one general best: your love is better than high birth to me, richer than wealth, more of an object of pride than garments' cost and more delightful than hawks or horses can be. And having you, I boast of having the equivalent of all other sources of pride put togetherwretched in this alone: that you may take all this away and make me most wretched.
- 92: "But do thy worst to steal thyself away"
- The poet comes up with an ingenious reason why he shouldn't worry about losing the love of his beloved, but then has serious doubts. In the first fourteen lines, the poet says that he has no worries because if his beloved stops loving him, he will just die, and so his worries will be over. But in the last two lines he has a second thought: "Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not."
But do your worst to steal yourself away, because it doesn't worry me, since I am assured of your love for my whole life, because if you stop loving me, I will just die. Then I need not fear the worst of wrongs, when in the least of those wrongs my life has ended. I see a better state of mind belongs to me than that upon which your caprice depends; you cannot vex me with a fickle mind, since if you desert me it will cost me my life. O, what a right to be called happy do I find, happy to have your love, happy to die! But what is so blessedly beautiful and perfect that fears no blot? In this case the blot is that you may be unfaithful, and yet I know it not.
- 93: "So shall I live, supposing thou art true"
- In the previous sonnet, the poet concluded with the suspicion that "Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not." In this sonnet, he decides that there is nothing to be done about such a suspicion, since heaven must have decreed that nothing but sweetness and virtue should show in his beloved.
So shall I live, supposing you are true, like a deceived husband: the appearance of love may still seem love to me even though the expression is changed. For me, no hatred can live in your eye; therefore, I cannot discern alterations. In many people's looks the false heart's history is apparent in facial expressions, but heaven did decree during your creation that sweet love should always dwell in your face; whatever your thoughts or the workings of your heart may be, your looks show nothing but sweetness. How like Eve's apple does your beauty grow, if your sweet virtue does not match your appearance!
- 94: "They that have power to hurt and will do none"
- Still suspecting that his love is not returned, the poet agonizes over his inability to see past his beloved's beautiful surface.
They that have the power to hurt and do not do so, that do not do what their appearance strongly implies, who, moving others to love, are themselves as stone unmoved, dispassionate, and slow to respond to temptation they make proper use of heaven's graces and keep their natural riches from wasteful expenditure or loss. They are complete masters of themselves; others only attend upon their excellence. [They are like a perfect summer's flower, and ] the summer's flower is to the summer sweet, though to itself alone it lives and dies, but if that flower gets infected, the basest weed surpasses in splendor the flower's worth: for sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
- 95: "How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame"
- The poet compliments his beloved on the sweet and lovely beauty which disguises and encloses his sins, but warns his dear heart to regard his beauty as a privilege which he can lose if he uses it for nothing but a disguise.
How sweet and lovely do you make the shame which, like a canker worm in the fragrant rose, taints the beauty of your budding reputation! O, in what sweetness do you enclose your sins! That tongue that tells the story of your days, making lascivious comments upon your amorous dalliance, cannot criticize but in a kind of praise; naming your name blesses an injurious report. O, what a mansion those vices got for their dwelling place when they chose youwhere beauty covers every blemish and all things turn to fair that eyes can see! Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege: the hardest knife ill-used loses its edge.
- 96: "Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness"
- The poet tells his beloved that he has the power to transform faults into graces, and asks him to not take advantage of this power, because the beloved's reputation belongs to the poet.
Some say your fault is youth, some amorous dalliance; some say your grace is youth and amorous dalliance; both grace and faults are loved by persons of every rank. You turn faults into graces, as on the finger of a queen, the least valuable jewel will be well-esteemed, just like those errors in you that are seen to be truths. How many lambs could a savage wolf attack, if he could transform his looks to look like a lamb! How many adoring fans might you lead astray, if you would use the full glory of your attractiveness! But do not do so; I love you in such a way that, you being mine, what belongs to me is your good reputation.
- 97: "How like a winter hath my absence been"
- The poet mourns the absence of his beloved.
How like a winter has my absence from you been; thinking back over the pleasure of the fleeting year, what freezings have I felt, what dark days seen. Old December's bareness was everywhere and yet this absence was summertime which had turned into teeming autumn, pregnant with the rich increase of leaves, bearing the wanton children of springtime, like widow's womb's after their lord's decease. Yet this abundant issue seemed to me but (the vain) hope of orphans; for summer and its pleasures depend on you, and when you are away the very birds are mute. Or, if they sing, it is with such a melancholy cheer that leaves look pale, dreading that winter is near.
- 98: "From you have I been absent in the spring"
- As in the previous sonnet, the poet tells his beloved youth it is winter when he is away.
From you I have been absent in the spring, when brilliantly multi-colored April dressed in all its finery has put a spirit of youth in everything, so that usually morose Saturn laughed and leapt with April. Yet neither the nests of birds nor the sweet smell of many varied flowers could tell me a pleasant summer story, nor induce me to pick them. Nor did I wonder at the lily's whiteness, nor did I praise the deep red hue in the rose: they were sweet, but symbols of delight, drawn after you, the pattern of all those. (Though it was April) yet seemed it winter still, and, with you away, as with your shadow I played with the symbols of summer.
- 99: "The forward violet thus did I chide"
- The poet accuses various flowers stealing their beauty from the beloved. [Note: An extra introductory line makes this sonnet fifteen lines long.]
The early-blooming violet thus I did scold: sweet thief, where did you steal your sweet scent if not from my love's breath? The purple pride of your complexion dwells in my love's veins which you have too obviously used to dye yourself purple. I condemned the lily for stealing the hue of your hand and the marjoram buds for stealing your hair. The roses stood fearfully on thorns, one blushing shame, another white despair, a third rose, neither red nor white, had stolen from both and in addition to his robbery had appropriated your breath; but, for his theft, a vengeful canker was eating him up to death. More flowers I noted, yet not one could I see without thinking of the sweetness and color it had stolen from you, my love.
- 100: " Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long "
- The poet rebukes his Muse for straying away from the subject of the timeless beauty of his beloved.
Where are you, Muse, that you forget for so long to speak of that which gives you all your power? [Why have you been] spending your inspiration on some worthless song, which debases your power by lending your inspiration to lowly subjects? Return, forgetful Muse, and immediately redeem [yourself and] your idle time with noble verses; sing to the ear that values your songs and gives your pen both skill and subject matter. Arise, lazy Muse, and survey my love's sweet face to see if Time has engraved any wrinkles there; if you find any wrinkles, rebuke the ruins of Time and make the ravages of Time despised everywhere. Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life: so you will forestall his scythe.
- 101: "O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends"
- The poet once again scolds his Muse for neglecting to praise his beloved.
O truant Muse, what shall be your amends for your neglect of truth which is blended with beauty? Both truth and beauty depend upon my love, as do you and your dignity. Give me an answer, Muse: will you not perhaps say that truth needs not the color of beauty because its own color is permanent, (and also say that) beauty needs not a painter's brush to apply beauty's truth, (and add that) it's best not to mix truth and beauty? (However,) will you (my Muse) be silent just because my beloved needs no praise? Do not excuse your silence so, for it is in your power to make him famous throughout time and to be praised by ages yet to come. Then, perform your function Muse; I will teach you to make him seen forever as he is now.
- 102: "My love is strengthen'd, though more weak in seeming"
- The poet reassures the beloved of his continued devotion despite his recent lyrical silence.
My love is strengthened, even though it seems weaker; I love not less, despite recent appearances. That love is commercialized whose rich value the poet advertises everywhere. Our love was new (I admit) when I greeted it with my songs (lyric poetry), as the nightingale (Philomela) sings at the beginning of the summer and stops her singing as the days wear on: not that the summer is less pleasant now than when Philomela's mournful hymns hushed the nightbut that wild music burdens every bough, so that it loses it delight, like sweets eaten too often. Therefore, like the nightingale, I sometimes hold my tongue because I would not satiate you with my song.
- 103: "Alack, what poverty my Muse brings forth"
- The poet says his poetry his too poor to do justice to the beauty of his beloved.
Alack, what poverty my Muse reveals, that having such a range of attributes to be proud of, the unadorned subject is more admirable than when it has praise (contained in my verse) added. O, blame me not, if I can no more write! Look in your mirror, and there appears a face that quite overcomes my inferior creation, making my lines uninteresting and doing me disgrace. Were it not sinful then, striving to repair, but inflicting damage where no alteration was needed? For to no other end did my verses tend than revealing your graces and natural gifts; and more, much more, than in my verse can reside; your own mirror shows you (such truths) when you look in it.
- 104: "To me, fair friend, you never can be old"
- The poet tells his fair friend that he can never be old because beauty did not exist until he was born.
To me, fair friend, you never can be old, for as you looked on the first day I saw you, such seems your beauty still. Three cold winters have shook three summers' pride; three beauteous springs have turned into yellow autumn. The progression of the seasons I have seen: three April perfumes have burned in three hot Junes since the first time I saw you; yet, you look as young as ever. Ah! yet does beauty slip away like the shadow of the hand on the dial of the clock and steals away with movements too small to be detected; so your sweet complexion may have changed, and even though it seems the same to me, my eyes may be deceived. For fear of my misapprehension, hear this, generations unborn: before you were born, summer's beauty was dead.
- 105: "Let not my love be call'd idolatry"
- The poet wants future generations to know that truth, beauty (and kindness or goodness) did not exist together before his fair friend was born.
Let not (my poems' devotion to) my love be called excessive, nor my love be seen as an idol, even though my poems and praises be (all alike in theme) to my love, of my love, always this way and forever. Kind is my love today, kind tomorrow; always constant in wondrous excellence. Therefore my verse is confined to constancy: expressing one thing, it leaves out variety. Beauty, kindness and truth is my entire subject matter; beauty, kindness and truth vary only in the ways I express them and in this change of words is all my creativeness used up. Three themes in one, which wondrous range affords. Beauty, kindness and truth have often lived alone separately, but this is the first time beauty, kindness, truth have kept together in one person.
- 106: "When in the chronicle of wasted time"
- The poet tells the fair youth that beauty was not born until he was born.
When in the account of bygone time I see descriptions of the fairest persons, and beauty making beautiful old poetry in praise of ladies dead and lovely knights, then in the glorification of sweet beauty's best formed hand, foot, lip, eye or brow, I see their pen of old would have expressed even such beauty as you have now. So, since all their praises are but prophecies of this our time, all foreshadowing you, and because they looked with eyes full of conjecture, they had not the skill to sing your worth. For we, which now behold these present days, have eyes to perceive the wonder, but lack the words to (fully) praise (your unparalleled beauty).
- 107: "Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul"
- The poet says that no prophecy can foredoom his beloved, especially because the poet's poetry will be the a monument to his beloved.
Not my own fears, not the prophetic soul of the whole wide world dreaming of things to come can yet control my true love's lease on life, which is supposed to be subject to a limited duration. The mortal who is like Diana, goddess of the moon, has endured her eclipse and the pessimistic astrologers now ridicule their own previous predictions; desirable events, once doubtful, are now crowned with certainty and peace proclaims olives without foreseeable end. Now the dew of this time has been like a balm, so that now my love looks fresh, and death to me yields, because despite death, I'll survive in this poor rhyme, while death triumphs over dull and illiterate tribes: and you in this shall find your monument to yourself, when tyrants' trophies and tombs of brass are wasted away.
- 108: "What's in the brain that ink may character"
- The poet assures the beloved that despite the ravages of time, his love has not diminished.
What's in the brain that ink may write which has not shown you my true spirit? What's new to speak or to record that may express my love or your dear merit? Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine, I must repeat the very same each daycounting no old thing old, since you are mine and I am yours, just as when I first venerated your fair name. Thus eternal love, appearing in new love's covering, disregards the dust and injury of age nor considers inevitable wrinkles, but makes old age forever his page, finding the first conception of love generated there where time and outward appearance would show it dead.
- 109: "O, never say that I was false of heart"
- Having been absent for a time, the poet reassures his beloved of his devotion.
O, never say that I was untrue of heart, though my absence seemed to signal that my flame of love was burning low. It would be as easy as departing from myself as to depart from my soul, which lives in your breast; that is my home of love. If I have gone astray, I am like someone who travels away and returns exactly at the right time, not changed (in my love for you) because of the time (that I have been absent), so that I bring water (to wash away) my blemish. Never believe, though in my nature reigned all frailties that besiege all kinds of temperaments, that my character could so preposterously be flawed as to abandon for no reason all of your goodness. For in this wide universe there is nothing except you that I call my paragon; in all the universe you are my all.
- 110: "Alas, 'tis true I have gone here and there"
- The poet admits to his beloved that he has been as constant or true as he should have, but he is now returning, never to stray again.
Alas, it's true I have gone here and there and made myself a fool in front of others, wounded deeply my own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear, offended my old friends with new friendships; most true it is that I have reflected on constancy with mistrustfulness; but, by all above, these deviations from fidelity gave my heart another youth, and these inferior experiments proved you to be my best love. Now that all is done, you shall have that which shall have no end: I will never again whet my appetite by sharpening it with new experiences, to test a friend of long standing (you), (who are) a god in love, to whom I am (now) entirely devoted. Then give me welcome, (you who are) next to heaven the best, even to your pure and most loving breast.
- 111: "O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide"
- The poet, fearing that his public image may be embarrassing to his dear friend, asks for pity.
O, for my sake do you chid Fortune, the guilty goddess of my harmful actions, because she did not better provide for my life than a subsistence earned by pleasing the public, which breeds vulgar conduct. Because of the way I earn my living, my reputation receives a mark of disgrace and my nature almost is reduced to what it works in, like the cloth dyer's hand. Then pity me and wish I were restored (to what I was by nature). Meanwhile, like a willing patient, I will drink draughts of vinegar to ward off my strong infection; no bitterness will I think bitter, nor will I attempt to punish my doubled punishment. Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure you that very pity of yours is enough to cure me.
- 112: "Your love and pity doth the impression fill"
- Still concerned about his public image, the poet tells his beloved that the rest of the world may as well be dead, as the beloved's opinion is the only one that matters.
Your love and pity smooth the furrow which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow; for what do I care who calls me good or bad, since you cover over my bad and approve my good? You are the whole world to me, and I must strive to acquaint myself with my shames and praises from your tongue: for me there are no others alive who can change my steeled sensibilitieswhether for better or for worse. I throw all care about others' voices into the profound abyss, that my deafness stops critic and flatterer. Notice how with my neglect (of others' opinions) I excuse myself: you are so firmly bred to my purpose that it seems to me that everyone else in all the word is dead.
- 113: "Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind"
- The poet declares that while he as been away, images of his beloved have filled his mind's eye.
Since I left, I see only with my mind's eye and that part of the eye which guides me to go about only performs half of its function and is partly blind, seeming to see, but is in effect out of order, for no image is delivered to the mind. I do not receive bird, flower or any other shape which the eye normally catches sight ofalong with fleeting perceptions, as the mind is not playing its part, for its own vision cannot remember or record what it sees regardless of the quality of its beauty or interest. No matter what the eye glimpsesthe most sweet beauty or its opposite, a deformed creaturethe mountain or the sea, the day or night, the crow or dove, the eye makes them resemble your features: incapable of (forming any other image), fulfilled with (images of) you, my most constant mind thus makes my physical eye untrue.
- 114: "Or whether doth my mind, being crown'd with you"
- The poet, feeling that his love for "you" (the fair youth) has made the whole world beautiful and made him feel like a king, asks whether he can trust his mind and eye in this matter. He concludes that his mind and his eye are conspiring to flatter him, but he doesn't much mind.
Is it true that my mind, thinking itself kingly because it is filled with your beloved image, only drinks the traditional plague of kings, flattery? Or is it true that my eye tells me the truth, because your love has taught my eye the magical ability to make ugly monsters and hazy images resemble lovely angels which resemble you, so that my eye has the ability to transform all that is bad into an image of perfection, working its visual magic in the blink of an eye? O! It's my first thought that is true; it is flattery that fills my seeing, so that my whole mind, like a king, drinks up all the flattery. My eye very well knows what agrees with my mind's taste, and prepares the cup of flattery to satisfy that taste. If that cup of flattery is poison, my eye's sin of serving it to my mind is less because my eye also loves the cup of flattery and drinks it first.
- 115: "Those lines that I before have writ do lie"
- The poet confesses to his beloved that the poetry he has written in the past was a lie because then he said "I love you best" and now he knows that his love is even stronger.
Those lines that I have written previously lie; even the lines that said I could not love you more are lies; when I wrote those lines my judgment knew no reason why my full passion should afterwards burn clearer. But taking into account the effects of timewhich causes millions of accidents that disrupt vows, change kings' decrees, ruin sacred beauty, blunt the most acute intentions, and divert strong minds so that they follow the course of changing thingsalas, why could I not therefore say (fearing time's tyranny), "Now I love you best," when I was certain about the uncertainty [of the effects of time], making the present most important and doubting the rest? [Considering all of this, might I not rightly say that] love is a naive babe, to ascribe full growth to that which [in actuality] still does grow?
- 116: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds"
- The poet defines love as never-changing despite all the changes caused by time.
Let me not admit that anything can impede the marriage of true minds. Love is not love which alters when it finds changes or which changes when the beloved is out of sight. Oh no! Love is an unmoving seamark that sees storms and is never shaken; love is the guiding star to every wandering ship, and its worth is beyond calculating even though its height can be determined. Love is not Time's plaything, though [youthful] rosy lips and cheeks are within the range of Time's sickle. Love does not alter with Time's brief hours and weeks, but endures even to the brink of Doomsday. If I'm wrong, and it can be proved I'm wrong [by my actions or words], I never wrote a word, nor has no man ever loved.
- 117: "Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all"
- The poet asks his beloved to accuse him of neglect, stipulating that it was not true neglect, but a test of the beloved's love and constancy.
Accuse me this way: that I have neglected all in which I should repay your great deservingness; [that I have] forgot to call upon your dearest love to which all bonds do daily tie me. That I have been familiar with strangers and wasted time which was your own dearly-purchased right, that I have hoisted sail to all the winds which would take me the farthest from your sight. Book both my willfulness and errors as evidence against me, and add just suspicion to what has already been proven; bring me within the range of your frown, but don't shoot at me with your newly awakened hate, since my plea says I did what I did to test the constancy and virtue of your love.
- 118: "Like as to make our appetites more keen"
- Having already tried to inoculate himself against the disappointments of love, the poet declares to his beloved that there is no medicine that will cure him of his love.
As to make our appetites more keen, with appetizing compounds we encourage our palate, so to prevent (in advance) our unseen maladies, to shun sickness we make ourselves sick with a purge. Even so, being full of your never-cloying sweetness, I purposely fed on bitter sauces, and, gorged with happiness, found a kind of fitness to be diseased before there was true need. Thus my cunning plans, meant to keep my love healthy by providing remedies beforehand for ills that did not actually exist, became real faults and administered harmful medicine to my healthy love, which sick with goodness, tried to cure itself with sickness. From this futile experience I learned and find the lesson true, that drugs poison him who fell sick (from love) of you.
- 119: "What potions have I drunk of Siren tears"
- The poet tells how much he has suffered from an infatuation with a "Siren," and says it has taught him to value his true love more highly.
I have drunk a love-potion distilled in filthy equipement from the deceitful tears of temptresses. I have salved my fears with hopes and salted my hopes with fears, always losing when I was expecting to win! What wretched errors has my heart committed while my heart had thought itself never so blessed! How have my eyes started out of their spheres as if driven by fits in the distraction of this maddening fever! O benefit of evil! Now I find it true that better is by evil made still better; and ruined love, when it is built anew, grows fairer than at first, stronger and far greater. So I return, rebuked by my experience with false love, to the true love that has always made me happy, and I gain by the use of evil three times more than I have spent.
- 120: "That you were once unkind befriends me now"
- The poet grieves over his estrangement from his beloved, but feels hopeful now that both of them have committed trespasses which have become fees that may ransom their feelings for one another.
That you were once unkind to me now serves as a guide, andin recompense for that sorrow that I felt thenI now must bow under my guilt for my transgression, unless my nerves were brass or hammered steel. For if you were shaken by my unkindness as I was by yours, you have passed a hell of time and I, a tyrant, have not taken the time to consider how I once suffered from your crime. O, that our night of estrangement might have reminded my deepest sense of how hard true sorrow hits, and made me quickly offer to youas you quickly offered to methe humble salve which soothes all wounded bosoms! But that trespass of yours now becomes a fine (that you owe to me); my fine (that I owe to you) pays for yours and yours must pay for mine.
- 121: "'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed"
- The poet defends the importance of doing your own thinking and not simply accepting the view of others.
It is better (to be) vile than (to be) thought vile, when not to be vile receives the reproach of vileness and the legitimate pleasure lost which is deemed vile, not by what we feel, but by the view of others. For why should the false adulterated eyes of others greet (and confirm the presence of) my licentious blood? Or on my frailties why should there be frailer spies who count bad what I think good? No, I am what I am, and those that aim at my misdeeds (really) count their own (misdeeds): I may be straight though they themselves be aslant; by their foul thoughts my deeds must not be interpreted, lest this general principle of evil they maintain: all men are bad and in their badness reign.
- 122: "Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain"
- The poet says that he does not need notes to remember his love for the beloved.
Your gift, your writing tablets, are within my brain written all over in my lasting memory, which shall remain above the ordinary rank of things, beyond all date, even to eternity; or at least, so long as brain and heart are able to subsist until each one to obliterating forgetfulness yields its part of you; the record of you can never be lost. That poor book could not hold so much, nor do I need notched sticks to keep account of your dear love; therefore, giving them away was bold of me to trust the tables of memory which deal with you more: to keep an aid to remember you were to impute forgetfulness in me.
- 123: "No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change"
- The poet addresses Time defiantly, saying that neither the present nor the past are true due to Time's hasty nature, yet vowing that he shall be true to Time.
No, Time, you shall not boast that I change: your pyramids built up with newer strength are not novel to me, not at all unusual; they are but reconstructions of what has been seen before. Our lifetimes are brief, and therefore we admire what you foist upon us that is old, and (you would) rather make them appeal to our desire to see new things than have us think that we have heard of them before. I defy both you and your records (of the past), not wondering at the present or the past, for the records of the past and what we see lies, made more or less true by your continual haste. This I vow and this shall always be: I will be true, despite you and your scythe.
- 124: "If my dear love were but the child of state"
- The poet declares that his love was built (planning and forethought are implied) and has nothing to do with the accidents of Time and Fortune (the parents of chance).
If my dear love were merely the child of circumstance, it might have no parent but Fortune and be subject to Time's love or hateâ€“weeds among weeds or flowers with flowers gathered. No (this is far from the truth), my love was built and is far from being accidental: it does not alter in smiling pomp, nor does it fall under the blow of thralled discontent, to which the present time calls us to accommodate fashion: it (my dear love) does not fear the sort of prudence which has no true faith, which operates with a view to immediate gains, but stands all alone, invulnerable to chance; nor does it grow with sunshine nor drown with showers. To witness this, I call upon the playthings of time, who die for (the sake of) goodness, having lived for crime.
- 125: "Were 't aught to me I bore the canopy"
- The poet contemplates various ways of expressing devotion.
Would it mean anything to me if I paid homage with my exterior (performing) the outward honoring, or (should I?) prepare great foundations for lasting fame which (may) prove (to be) shorter than the wasting and ruining (of nature). Had I not seen those who dwell on (the importance of) courtly behavior and status lose all, and more, by overdoing their obligations, foregoing simple sincerity for elaborate ceremony"pitiful thrivers," (all their time is) spent in courtly observances. No, (let's not talk about the thrivers) let me pay court in your heart, and you take my offering (though it be) poor but free; it is not mixed with inferior seconds, knows no artifice, but fair exchangeonly me for you. Therefore, you paid spy! (you owner of) a true soul (which) when most treasonous remains least in your control.
- 126: "O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power"
- In six couplets, the poet warns the beloved that though Nature will restore and keep him for a time, Time will ultimately triumph over him.
O you, my lovely boy, who holds (back the power of) Time's hourglass, Time's sickle and Time's hour; who has grown more beautiful with time, showing up (by comparison) your lovers' aging as your sweet self becomes more beautiful. If Nature, the sovereign mistress of ruin, continually plucks you back (from the power of Time), she keeps you for this purpose, that her skill may disgrace Time and kill wretched minutes. Yet fear her, O you darling of Nature's pleasure! She may detain, but she cannot keep her treasure forever: her final accounting, though delayed, must be settled, and her quietus is to surrender you (to Time and death).
- 127: "In the old age black was not counted fair"
- With the beginning of the Dark Lady series (127-152) the poet declares that the new beauty is black, since blonde beauty has been fouled by cosmetics and his mistress' black eyes and eyebrows so grace a seeming grief that people say beauty should look so.
In the old days, black was not considered attractive, or if it were (considered attractive) it bore not beauty's name; but now black beauty is the successive heir (to the title of beauty) and (the previous standard of) beauty is slandered with the shame of illegitimacy: for since many hands have assumed nature's power, beautifying the ugly with art's false borrowed face (of makeup), sweet beauty has no reputation, no holy home, but is profaned, if not living in disgrace. Therefore my mistress' brows are raven black, her eyes so suitably (colored) that they seem to be mourners for those who, not born blonde, no beauty lack, dishonoring nature with a false reputation for beauty: yet so they (the mistress' eyes) mourn, gracefully in their sorrow, that every tongue says beauty should look so.
- 128: "How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st"
- This sonnet to the Dark Lady, who the poet calls my music, is saturated with sexual innuendo plus seemingly specific physical requests, depending upon which way you take the words and their referents.
How often, when you, my music, music played upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds with thy sweet fingers, when you gently governed the wiry harmony that overcomes my ear with delight. Do I (ever) envy jacks that nimbly leap to kiss the delicate inside of your hand, while my poor lips, which should reap that harvest stand beside you blushing at the wood's boldness! To be so tickled, my lips would change their state and situation with those dancing chips (of wood) over whom your fingers walk with gentle gait, making dead wood more blessed than living lips, since impertinent jacks (that stand up to make music) are so satisfied in this (occupation), give them thy fingers, me your lips to kiss.
- 129: "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame"
- The poet decries the savage power of lust (and the God who makes men thus), lust which propels men beyond reason in a quest that, once achieved, causes remorse and woe.
The expenditure of vital energy in a shameful waste is lust in action and until action, lust is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame, savageness, violence, brutality, cruelty, and not to be trusted: enjoyed no sooner than despised right away, past reason hunted, and no sooner had than past reason hated, as a swallowed bait laid on purpose to make the taker “mad in pursuit and possession (of lust). So had, having, and in quest to have, extreme; a bliss while being experienced and (when) completed a serious woe; before, a joy proposed; after, a (bad) dream. All this the world well knows; yet none knows well to shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
- 130: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"
- In this mock tribute to the Dark Lady, the poet parodies poetic conventions when he lists all the attributes she does not possess.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; coral is far more red than the red of her lips. If snow be white, why then her breasts are tan; if hairs be wires, black (not gold or silver) wires grow on her head. I have seen roses woven together, red and white, but no such roses do I see in her cheeks. And in some perfumes there is more delight than in the breath that from my mistress flows. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know that music has a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess walk: my mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground (unlike a goddess). And yet, by heaven, I think my love (is) as rare as any woman (who is) misrepresented with false comparison(s).
- 131: "Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art"
- The poet calls his lover fair in looks (contrary to popular opinion), but black in action and deeds, the poet thinks, which account for the unjustified public opinion about her attractiveness.
You are as pitiless as those whose beauty (with justified pride) make them cruel; for you know my fond heart well. You are the fairest and most precious jewel, yet truly some say that your looks (thy face) do not have the power to make love moan: I dare not be so bold as to say they err, although I swear it to myself when I am alone. And as proof that is not untrue I swear, (I emit) a thousand moans in rapid succession just thinking of you. The moans bear witness to your dark complexion, which is the fairest (the lightest and the prettiest) in my critical opinion. In nothing are you black except in your deeds, and from thence this slander (about your face), I think, originates.
- 132: "Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me"
- The poet ends his tribute to the set of the Dark Lady's mournful eyes by swearing that everyone else is ugly except those whose appearance (complexion) is reminiscent of his beloved.
I love your eyes, especially when they reveal that you know I am tormented by your disdain, and your eyes have put on black, being loving mourners that look with pretty pity upon my pain. And truly not the morning sun of heaven better adorns the grey cheeks of the east, nor that full star that ushers in the evening gives half that glory to the somber west, as those two mourning eyes become your face: O, let it be then as well becomes your heart to mourn for me, since mourning doth thee beautify, and suit your feelings like in every part. Then will I swear beauty herself is black and all they ugly that thy complexion lack.
- 133: "Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan"
- The poet curses the Dark Lady's cruel heart, saying that she has charmed his best friend so that he may be more of a prisoner than the poet, but concludes the sonnet by acknowledging that he is the Dark Lady's chattel.
Curse that heart that makes my heart moan, for that deep wound your heart gives my friend and me! Is it not enough to torture just me, but slave to slavery my sweetest friend must (also) be? Your cruel eye has separated me from myself, and you have grappled my best friend more securely (than you initially did me) so that he is completely monopolized: of him, myself, and you, I am forsaken; a torment thrice threefold (nine times) thus to be afflicted. Imprison my heart in your steel bosomed jail cell, but then let my poor heart liberate my friend's heart. Whoever keeps me, let my heart be his guard; you cannot then use torture in my jail: yet you will for I, being imprisoned in you, am necessarily yours, and all that (you are) is part of me.
- 134: "So, now I have confess'd that he is thine"
- Sonnet 134 is similar in theme to 133, which mourns the loss of his best friend to the Dark Lady, yet with a darker tone expressed in loan parlance metaphors.
So, now I have acknowledged that he is yours, and I myself am mortgaged to your pleasure. I'll forfeit myself, so that you will restore my best friend to be my comfort still: but you will not (restore him to me), nor will he not be free, for you are covetous and he is kind; he learned but as a guarantor to endorse for me under that (same) bond that binds him fast (to you). The security of your beauty you will take, you usurer, that puts forth all (your talents) to use, and woos a friend who became debtor for my sake; so I lose him through your unkind abuse of me. Him have I lost; you have both him and me: he pays the whole, and yet am I not free.
- 135: "Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy 'Will'"
- This sonnet, 136 and 143 involve elaborate punning on the multiple meanings of Will: wishes, carnal desire, temper, passion, in addition to the poet's name and perhaps another person named Will.
Whoever has her wish, you have your 'Will,' and 'Will' to boot, and 'Will' in superabundance; more than enough am I that pesters you continually, to your sweet will making addition thus. Will you, whose will is large and spacious, not once grant me the favor of hiding my will in yours? Shall will in others seem especially gracious, and in my will no fair acceptance shine? The ocean, which is all water yet still receives rain and in abundance added to its store; so you, being rich in 'Will,' add to your 'Will' one will of desire of mine, to make your large 'Will' more. Do not kill with unkindness any of your wooers: think (unkindly) of all but one, and me in that one 'Will.'
- 136: "If thy soul check thee that I come so near"
- Sonnet 135, 136 and 143 involve elaborate punning on the multiple meanings of Will: wishes, carnal desire, temper, passion, in addition to the poet's name and perhaps another person named Will.
If your soul restrains you that I come so near (the truth in Sonnet 135), swear to your sightless soul that I was your 'Will,' (your lover), and passion, your soul knows, is admitted there; thus far for love (in) my love-suit, Sweet, fulfill. 'Will' will fill full the treasury of your love, yes, fill it full with wills and my will one. In things of great capacity we easily prove among a group of numbers that one is reckoned none: then within the many, let me pass uncounted, though in your inventory (of lovers) I must count as one; for the sake of nothing, hold me any way you please so that the nothing that is me, becomes something sweet (desirable) to you. Make but my name your love, and love that always, and then you love me, for my name is 'Will.'
- 137: "Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes"
- The poet censures Love for blinding his judgment, which has resulted in his taking the worst for the best.
You blind fool, Love, what have you done to my eyes, that they behold, and see not what they see? My eyes know what beauty is, and can see where it lies, yet take the worst for the best. If eyes corrupted by over-fond looks be anchored in the bay where all men ride, why have you (Love) of eyes' delusion forged enticements, to which my heart is bound? Why should my heart think that to be private property when my heart knows the wide world is common land, available to anyone. Or my eyes, seeing this, saying this is not, to put fair truth upon so foul a face? In things right my heart and eyes have erred and they are now transferred to this false plague (this plague of seeing false things which I judge to be true).
- 138: "When my love swears that she is made of truth"
- Love's best attribute is "seeming trust" which results in mutual flattery caused by the implicit and mutual acceptance of lies, such as the poet not being old and the mistress not being untrue.
When my love swears that she is made of truth I do believe her, though I know she lies, so that she might think me some uneducated youth, unlearned in the world's false subtleties. Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, although she knows my days are past the prime: put quite simply I credit her false speaking tongue. On both sides (of the infatuation) thus is simple truth suppressed, but to what end does she say she is not unjust? And to what end do I say that I am not old? O, love's best habit is in seeming trust, and age in love loves not to have years told; therefore, I lie with her and she with me, and in our faults by lies we will be flattered.
- 139: "O, call not me to justify the wrong"
- The poet tells his mistress that she can wound him with words (of infidelity), but not to betray her feelings by wandering eyes or looks as her actions have the power to kill him outright.
O, do not call me to justify the wrong that your unkindness lays upon my heart; wound me not with your glances, but with your tongue. Use power openly and do not slay me by art. Tell me you love elsewhere, but within my sight, dear heart, forbear to glance your eye aside: why do you need to wound with cunning when your might is more than my stressed defenses can withstand? Let me excuse you: ah! my love well knows her pretty looks have been mine enemies, and therefore from my face she turns away my foes, so that they might dart their injuries elsewhere. Yet do not so; but since I am nearly slain, kill me outright with your glances and end my pain.
- 140: "Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press"
- Sonnet 140 is similar to 139 because the poet again asks his mistress not to flirt in his presence, but this sonnet's tone is more serious, almost threatening.
Be wise as you are cruel; do not push my silent patience with too much disdain; lest sorrow lend me words and those words express the nature of my unpitied (caused, but not pitied by you) pain. If I might teach you wisdom, better it were, to say you love me even though you don't; as fretful sick men, when their deaths are near, will hear no news but health from their physicians: for if I should despair, I might grow mad, and in my madness might speak ill of you. Now this wrenching world has grown so bad, mad slanderers by mad ears are believed; so that I may not be judged mad, nor you judged a liar, bear your eyes straight, though your proud heart goes wide of the mark.
- 141: "In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes"
- The poet confesses to his mistress that the feelings he has for her (which give him great pain) are totally engendered by his heart, and not by any of his five senses or his five intellectual faculties.
In faith, I do not love thee with my eyes, for they note in thee a thousand errors; but 'tis my heart that loves what my eyes despise. The heart, despite the evidence of vision, is pleased to dote; nor are my ears with your voice's tune delighted, nor are my delicate feelings eager for sexual contact. Nor do taste, nor smell, desire to be invited to any sensual feast with you alone: but neither my five wits nor my five senses can dissuade one foolish heart from serving you, who leaves the body ungoverned, (leaving behind) only the likeness of a man, who is your proud heart's slave and vassal wretch. Only my plague thus far can I count my gain, that she that makes me sin awards me pain.
- 142: "Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate"
- The poet hopes that if his mistress seeks any combination of compassion/pity/passion, she will be denied the very compassion/pity/passion combination she denies him.
Love is my sin and your dear virtue hates (it because your) hate of my sin, is grounded on (your assumption of my) sinful loving. O, but with mine compare your own state, and you shall find it (my love) merits not reproving; or, if it does deserve reprimand, not from those lips of yours, that have profaned their scarlet ornaments and sealed false bonds of love as often as mine: robbed others' beds' revenues of their usual obligations. Let it be considered lawful that I love you, as you love those whom your eyes woo as my eyes seek your gaze. Plant pity in your heart, that when it grows your pity may deserve to be pitied. If you do seek to have what you hide (compassion/pity/passion) from me, by your own example may you be denied!
- 143: "Lo! as a careful huswife runs to catch"
- The poet asks his mistress to treat him like the busy mother who turns back to comfort her crying child with kisses after she finishes a chore.
Lo! as a busy housewife runs to catch one of her feathered creatures which has broken away, she sets down her babe and makes swift haste in pursuit of the thing she would have stay, while her neglected child follows far behind, cries to catch her whose busy care is bent to follow that which flies before her face, disregarding her poor infant's discontent. Just so, you run after that which flies from you, while I, your babe, chase you from far behind; but, if you achieve your goal, turn back to me, and play the mother's part, kiss me, be kind: so I will pray that you may have thy 'Will,' if you turn back, and my loud crying stops.
- 144: "Two loves I have of comfort and despair"
- Another version of this sonnet (which is substantially the same) is the second poem in The Passionate Pilgrim, which also depicts the conflict in the poet's mind between his feelings for his friend (his better angel) and his mistress: the poet is particularly conflicted by the possibility that his two angels are together, as the poet is away.
Two loves I have of comfort and despair, which like two spirits do tempt me constantly: the better angel is a man right fair, the worser spirit a woman colored dark. To win me soon to hell, my female evil tempts my better angel from my side, and would corrupt my saint to be a devil, wooing his purity with her wicked wantonness. And whether my angel be turned (into a) fiend; I may suspect, but cannot directly tell; but being both away from me, and each a friend to the other, I guess one angel is in another's hell: yet this shall I never know, but live in doubt, until my bad angel drive my good one out.
- 145: "Those lips that Love's own hand did make"
- This is a sonnet written in eight-syllable meter (instead of ten-syllable meter) which some critics have regarded as out of place or have rejected; the sonnet exemplifies the tortured poet's imagination which suffers a full sonnet's worth between the beginning and the end of one of his mistress' sentences.
Those lips that Love's own hand did make breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate' to me who languished for her sake; but, when she saw my sorrowful state, right away in her heart did mercy come, chiding that tongue that ever sweet was used in making gentle judgments, and taught it thus anew to greet (me in a positive way): 'I hate' she altered with an end, that followed it as gentle day follows night, who like a fiend from heaven to hell is flown away; her words, 'I hate' from hatefulness away she threw, and saved my life, by saying 'not you.'
- 146: "Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth"
- This sonnet is thematically unlike either the preceding or the following sonnet, so some scholars think it may be sequentially misplaced; this profound, but increasingly morbid, sonnet recommends starving the body in order to feed the spirit and therefore cheat Death by reducing its food while simultaneously shortening life on earth in exchange for a longer term of divine salvation: the result of these actions is Death's death (a purposely ridiculously impossibility and perhaps purposely unfunny joke).
Poor soul, the center of my sinful body, enamored by these rebellious powers (of the body) that you clothe; why do you neglect yourself within and suffer shortage (there), (yet) paint your outward walls so expensively festive? Why so large an expenditure, having so short a lease (on life), do you upon your fading mansion (body) spend? Shall worms, inheritors of this excess, eat up your (years of) expenses? Is this your body's end? Then soul, live you upon your servant's (body's) loss, and let the body pine to enrich your (the soul's) resources. Buy long terms of divine salvation in exchange for wasted hours on earth; within be fed, without be rich no more. So shall you feed on Death, (by reducing Death's food supply) that feeds on men, and Death once dead, there's no more dying then.
- 147: "My love is as a fever, longing still"
- The poet's love and desire for his mistress have morphed into illness which he savors and he is now past cure because his reason has abandoned him; as proof that he is now a madman, the poet cites his previous high opinion of his mistress who is "as black as hell, as dark as night."
My love is as a fever, longing still for that which nurses the disease longer, feeding on that which preserves the illness, the uncertain sickly appetite to please. My reason, (which is) the physician to my love, angry that his prescriptions are not kept, has left me, and I (because) now desperate approve. Desire is death, (because) it refused medical treatment. Past cure I am, now reason is past care, and frantic-mad with evermore unrest; my thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are, at random from the truth vainly expressed; for I have sworn you to be fair and thought you to be bright, who are as black as hell, as dark as night.
- 148: "O me, what eyes hath Love put in my head"
- The poet laments the possibility of accurately judging the object of his love.
O me! what eyes has Love put in my head, which have no agreement with true sight. Or, if they have, where has my judgment fled, that judges falsely what they see? If she be fair whereon my false eyes dote, what means the world to say it is not so? If it be not, then love does indicates well. Love's eye is not so true as all men's opinion: no. How can it? O, how can Love's eye be true, that is so vexed with insomnia and with tears? No surprise then, though I mistake my view; the sun itself sees not till heaven clears. O cunning Love! with tears you keep me blind, lest eyes well-seeing your foul faults should find.
- 149: "Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not"
- The poet wants to know why he is not properly loved, as he takes his mistress' side on every issue (even against himself).
Can you not, O cruel! say I love you not, when I take sides against myself for you? Do I not think of you, when I forget myself? Am (I not) by myself (of my own volition), a complete tyrant, for your sake? Who hates you that I do call my friend? On whom do you frown that I do fawn upon? Nay, if you frown on me, do I not exact revenge upon myself with moaning (as I am doing now)? What merit do I respect in myself, that is so proud that I refuse to serve you, when all my best worships your defectiveness, commanded by the motion of your eyes? But, love, hate on, for now I know your mind; you love those that can see, and I am blind.
- 150: "O, from what power hast thou this powerful might"
- The poet asks his mistress how she acquired the power to charm him with her lack of charms.
O, from what supernatural power have you this powerful might to rule my heart with your lack of (the accepted) virtues and charms? To make me lie about what I see, and swear (for instance) that brightness does not grace the day? From where have you (acquired) the ability to make defects seem attractive, that in the very worst of your behavior there is such strength and warranting skill that, in my mind, your worst exceeds others' best? Who taught you how to make me love you more, the more I hear and see just cause to hate? O, though I love what others do abhor, with others you should not abhor my state: if your unworthiness raised love in me, more worthy (am) I to be beloved by you.
- 151: "Love is too young to know what conscience is"
- Because of his mistress' betrayal, the poet feels no guilt for the betrayal of his soul by his body in this sonnet which is saturated with sexual innuendo.
Love is too young to know what conscience is; yet who does not know conscience is awakened by the power of love? Then, gentle rogue, stress not my faults, unless your sweet self (also) proves to be guilty of my faults: for, your betraying me, I do betray my nobler part (my soul) to my gross body's treason. My soul tells my body that he may triumph in love; flesh awaits no further reason (to act); but, rising at your name, points you out as his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride, he is contented to be your poor drudge, to stand in your affairs, fall by your side. No lack of conscience believes that I call her 'love' for whose dear love I rise and fall.
- 152: "In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn"
- In this sonnet of bitterness, the poet laments the many perjured oaths he has made about his dark lady now that she vows hate for the poet.
In loving you, you know I am forsworn (having broken my marriage vows), but you are twice forsworn, for swearing to love me, in act your marriage vows broke and (also left our) new faith torn, in vowing new hate after bearing (our) new love. But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse you, when I break twenty? I am perjured most; for all my vows are oaths but to misuse you and all my honest faith in you is lost, for I have sworn deep oaths of your deep affection, oaths of your love, your truth, your constancy. And, to enlighten you, gave eyes to blindness (made up positive qualities that did not exist), or made them (my eyes) swear against the thing they saw; for I have sworn you fair; more perjured I, to swear against the truth so foul a lie!
- 153: "Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep"
- The last two sonnets are adaptations of epigrams in the Palatine Anthology, Greek poems of the fifth century (translated into Latin in the sixteenth century); some scholars have suggested that they were early exercises by the poet.
Cupid laid by his torch, and fell asleep; a maid of Diana's this opportunity found, and his love-kindling fire did quickly immerse in a cold valley-fountain of that ground; which borrowed from this holy fire of Love an endless, lively heat, always to endure, and became a seething (medicinal) bath, which yet men evince as proof against strange maladies a sovereign cure. But Love's torch was new-fired at my mistress' eyes, the boy needed to touch my breast to test it; I, sick from that (experience), the help of bath desired, and thither hastened, a sad, ill guest. But found no cure: the bath for my help lies where Cupid got new firefrom my mistress' eyes.
- 154: "The little Love-god lying once asleep"
- The last two sonnets are adaptations of epigrams in the Palatine Anthology, Greek poems of the fifth century (translated into Latin in the sixteenth century); some scholars have suggested that they were early exercises by the poet.
The little Love-god (Cupid) lying once asleep, laid by his side his heart-inflaming torch, while many nymphs that vowed a chaste life to keep came tripping by; but in her maiden hand the fairest votary took up that fire, which many legions of true hearts had warmed; and so the general of hot desire (Cupid) was sleeping unprotected near a virgin hand. This torch she quenched in a cool well nearby, which from Love's fire took heat perpetual, becoming a bath and healthful remedy for diseased men; but I, my mistress' thrall, came there for cure, and this (the following proposition) my experience proves: Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.