Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extracts from Sonnets
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
(See full text.)

2.
WHEN forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,        5
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine        10
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
  This were to be new made when thou art old,
  And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.
 
12.
WHEN I do count the clock that tells the time,
        15
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,        20
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake        25
And die as fast as they see others grow;
  And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
  Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
 
18.
SHALL I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:        30
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,        35
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair 1 thou owest; 2
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:        40
  So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
  So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
 
23.
AS an unperfect actor on the stage
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,        45
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart,
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharged with burden of mine own love’s might.        50
O, let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love and look for recompense
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
  O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:        55
  To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.
 
29.
WHEN, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,        60
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,        65
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
  For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
  That then I scorn to change my state with kings.        70
 
30.
WHEN to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,        75
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances forgone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er        80
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
  But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
  All losses are restored and sorrows end.
 
32.
IF thou survive my well-contented day,
        85
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bettering of the time,
And though they be outstripp’d by every pen,        90
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O, then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,        95
To march in ranks of better equipage:
  But since he died and poets better prove,
  Theirs for their style I ’ll read, his for his love.’
 
33.
FULL many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,        100
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,        105
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack! he was but one hour mine;
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.        110
  Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
  Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.
 
52.
SO am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,        115
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since, seldom coming, in the long year set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet.        120
So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special blest,
By new unfolding his imprison’d pride.
  Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives scope,        125
  Being had, to triumph, being lack’d, to hope.
 
54.
O, HOW much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.        130
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,        135
They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
  And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
  When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.        140
 
66.
TIRED with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,        145
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly doctor-like controlling skill,        150
And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
  Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
  Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
 
70.
THAT thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
        155
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo’d of time;        160
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail’d or victor being charged;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,        165
To tie up envy evermore enlarged:
  If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
  Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.
 
73.
THAT time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang        170
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,        175
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.        180
  This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
  To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
 
90.
THEN hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;
Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,        185
And do not drop in for an after-loss:
Ah, do not, when my heart hath ’scaped this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a conquer’d woe;
Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,
To linger out a purposed overthrow.        190
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite,
But in the onset come; so shall I taste
At first the very worst of fortune’s might,
  And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,        195
  Compared with loss of thee will not seem so.
 
97.
HOW like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!        200
And yet this time removed was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me        205
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;
  Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
  That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.        210
 
98.
FROM you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell        215
Of different flowers in odour and in hue
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;        220
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
  Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
  As with your shadow I with these did play.
 
102.
MY love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming;
        225
I love not less, though less the show appear:
That love is merchandized whose rich esteeming
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new and then but in the spring
When I was wont to greet it with my lays,        230
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough        235
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight,
  Therefore like her I sometime hold my tongue,
  Because I would not dull you with my song.
 
104.
TO me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,        240
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,        245
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion and mine eye may be deceived:        250
  For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
  Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.
 
106.
WHEN in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme        255
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express’d
Even such a beauty as you master now.        260
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And, for they look’d but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:
  For we, which now behold these present days,        265
  Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
 
107.
NOT mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.        270
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time        275
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I ’ll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes:
  And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
  When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.        280
 
110.
ALAS, ’tis true I have gone here and there
And made myself a motley to the view,
Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
Made old offences of affections new;
Most true it is that I have look’d on truth        285
Askance and strangely: but, by all above,
These blenches gave my heart another youth,
And worse essays proved thee my best of love.
Now all is done, have what shall have no end:
Mine appetite I never more will grind        290
On newer proof, to try an older friend,
A god in love, to whom I am confined.
  Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,
  Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.
 
111.
O, FOR my sake do you with Fortune chide,
        295
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued        300
To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand:
Pity me then and wish I were renew’d;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel ’gainst my strong infection;
No bitterness that I will bitter think,        305
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
  Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye
  Even that your pity is enough to cure me.
 
116.
LET me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love        310
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,        315
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.        320
  If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
 
119.
WHAT potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
Distill’d from limbecks foul as hell within,
Applying fears to hopes and hopes to fears,        325
Still losing when I saw myself to win!
What wretched errors hath my heart committed,
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never!
How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted
In the distraction of this madding fever!        330
O benefit of ill! now I find true
That better is by evil still made better;
And ruin’d love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
  So I return rebuked to my content        335
  And gain by ill thrice more than I have spent.
 
Note 1. beauty. [back]
Note 2. ownest. [back]
 
 
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