Verse > Anthologies > Elizabethan Sonnets > Sonnets and Poetical Translations
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Seccombe and Arber, comps.  Elizabethan Sonnets.  1904.
 
Sonnets and Poetical Translations
XIX. My mistress lowers, and saith I do not love!
Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
 
MY mistress lowers, and saith I do not love!
I do protest, and seek with service due,
In humble mind, a constant faith to prove:
But for all this, I cannot her remove
From deep vain thought that I may not be true.        5
 
  If oaths might serve, even by the Stygian lake,
Which poets say, the gods themselves do fear,
I never did my vowed word forsake.
For why should I; whom free choice, slave doth make?
Else what in face, than in my fancy bear.        10
 
  My Muse therefore—for only thou canst tell—
Tell me the cause of this my causeless woe?
Tell how ill thought disgraced my doing well?
Tell how my joys and hopes, thus foully fell
To so low ebb, that wonted were to flow?        15
 
  O this it is! The knotted straw is found!
In tender hearts, small things engender hate.
A horse’s worth laid waste the Trojan ground.
A three-foot stool, in Greece, made trumpets sound.
An ass’s shade, ere now, hath bred debate.        20
 
  If Greeks themselves were moved with so small cause
To twist those broils, which hardly would untwine:
Should ladies fair be tied to such hard laws,
As in their moods to take a lingering pause?
I would it not. Their metal is too fine.        25
 
  “My hand doth not bear witness with my heart,”
She saith, “because I make no woful lays,
To paint my living death, and endless smart.”
And so, for one that felt god CUPID’s dart,
She thinks I lead and live too merry days.        30
 
  Are poets then, the only lovers true?
Whose hearts are set on measuring a verse;
Who think themselves well blest, if they renew
Some good old dump, that CHAUCER’s mistress knew;
And use you but for matters to rehearse.        35
 
  Then, good APOLLO! do away thy bow!
Take harp! and sing in this our versing time!
And in my brain some sacred humour flow,
That all the earth my woes, sighs, tears may know.
And see you not, that I fall now to rhyme!        40
 
  As for my mirth—how could I but be glad
Whilst that, me thought, I justly made my boast
That only I, the only mistress had.
But now, if e’er my face with joy be clad;
Think HANNIBAL did laugh, when Carthage lost!        45
 
  Sweet Lady! As for those whose sullen cheer,
Compared to me, made me in lightness found;
Who Stoic-like in cloudy hue appear;
Who silence force, to make their words more dear;
Whose eyes seem chaste, because they look on ground:        50
    Believe them not! For physic true doth find,
    Choler adust is joyed in womankind.
 
 
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