Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Love Unalterable
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
LET 1 me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. 2 Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds, 3
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is ah ever-fixed mark,        5
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; 4
It is the star 5 to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, 6 though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;        10
Love alters not with his brief hours 7 and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:— 8
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
 
Note 1. Sonnet cxvi. Shake-speare’s Sonnettes, 1609. It would be difficult to cite a finer passage of moral poetry than this description of the master passion. (Leigh Hunt, English Sonnets.) “Admits his wanderings, but love is fixed above all the errors and trials of man’s life.” [back]
Note 2. Admit impediments: See the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony: If any of you know cause or just impediments, etc. [back]
Note 3. Lines 2–3, Love is not love: Cf. King Lear, act i. sc. 1:
                      Love’s not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point.
Note 4. Lines 5–6, An ever-fixed mark: Cf. Coriolanus, act v. sc. 3:
  Like a great sea-mark standing every flaw.
Note 5. It is a star: Prof. Dowden interprets this passage: “As the star, over and above what can be ascertained concerning it for our guidance at sea, has unknowable occult virtue and influence, so love, besides its power of guiding us, has incalculable potencies,” and adds, “Height, it should be observed, was used by Elizabethan writers in the sense of value, and the word may be used here in a double sense, altitude (of the star) and value (of love).” [back]
Note 6. Time’s fool: the sport or mockery of Time. Cf. King Henry IV., act v. sc. 4:
  But thought’s the slave of life, and life time’s fool.
Note 7. His brief hours: i.e., Time’s. [back]
Note 8. Bears it out even to the edge of doom: Cf. All’s Well that Ends Well, act iii. sc. 3:
  We’ll strive to bear it for your worthy sake
To the extreme edge of hazard.
 
 
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