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    Sonnets 121-154

    by William Shakespeare
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    CXXI.

    'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
    When not to be receives reproach of being,
    And the just pleasure lost which is so deem'd
    Not by our feeling but by others' seeing:
    For why should others false adulterate eyes
    Give salutation to my sportive blood?
    Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
    Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
    No, I am that I am, and they that level
    At my abuses reckon up their own:
    I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
    By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
    Unless this general evil they maintain,
    All men are bad, and in their badness reign.

    CXXII.

    Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
    Full character'd with lasting memory,
    Which shall above that idle rank remain
    Beyond all date, even to eternity;
    Or at the least, so long as brain and heart
    Have faculty by nature to subsist;
    Till each to razed oblivion yield his part
    Of thee, thy record never can be miss'd.
    That poor retention could not so much hold,
    Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
    Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
    To trust those tables that receive thee more:
    To keep an adjunct to remember thee
    Were to import forgetfulness in me.

    CXXIII.

    No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:
    Thy pyramids built up with newer might
    To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
    They are but dressings of a former sight.
    Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
    What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
    And rather make them born to our desire
    Than think that we before have heard them told.
    Thy registers and thee I both defy,
    Not wondering at the present nor the past,
    For thy records and what we see doth lie,
    Made more or less by thy continual haste.
    This I do vow and this shall ever be;
    I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.

    CXXIV.

    If my dear love were but the child of state,
    It might for Fortune's bastard be unfather'd'
    As subject to Time's love or to Time's hate,
    Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather'd.
    No, it was builded far from accident;
    It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
    Under the blow of thralled discontent,
    Whereto the inviting time our fashion calls:
    It fears not policy, that heretic,
    Which works on leases of short-number'd hours,
    But all alone stands hugely politic,
    That it nor grows with heat nor drowns with showers.
    To this I witness call the fools of time,
    Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.

    CXXV.

    Were 't aught to me I bore the canopy,
    With my extern the outward honouring,
    Or laid great bases for eternity,
    Which prove more short than waste or ruining?
    Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
    Lose all, and more, by paying too much rent,
    For compound sweet forgoing simple savour,
    Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent?
    No, let me be obsequious in thy heart,
    And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
    Which is not mix'd with seconds, knows no art,
    But mutual render, only me for thee.
    Hence, thou suborn'd informer! a true soul
    When most impeach'd stands least in thy control.

    CXXVI.

    O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
    Dost hold Time's fickle glass, his sickle, hour;
    Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
    Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow'st;
    If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
    As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
    She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
    May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.
    Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure!
    She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure:
    Her audit, though delay'd, answer'd must be,
    And her quietus is to render thee.

    CXXVII.

    In the old age black was not counted fair,
    Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
    But now is black beauty's successive heir,
    And beauty slander'd with a bastard shame:
    For since each hand hath put on nature's power,
    Fairing the foul with art's false borrow'd face,
    Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
    But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
    Therefore my mistress' brows are raven black,
    Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
    At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
    Slandering creation with a false esteem:
    Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
    That every tongue says beauty should look so.

    CXXVIII.

    How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st,
    Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
    With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway'st
    The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
    Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
    To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
    Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
    At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
    To be so tickled, they would change their state
    And situation with those dancing chips,
    O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
    Making dead wood more blest than living lips.
    Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
    Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

    CXXIX.

    The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
    Is lust in action; and till action, lust
    Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
    Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
    Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
    Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
    Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
    On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
    Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
    Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
    A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
    Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
    All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
    To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

    CXXX.

    My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
    Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
    I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
    But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
    And in some perfumes is there more delight
    Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
    I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
    That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
    I grant I never saw a goddess go;
    My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
    As any she belied with false compare.

    CXXXI.

    Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,
    As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel;
    For well thou know'st to my dear doting heart
    Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel.
    Yet, in good faith, some say that thee behold
    Thy face hath not the power to make love groan:
    To say they err I dare not be so bold,
    Although I swear it to myself alone.
    And, to be sure that is not false I swear,
    A thousand groans, but thinking on thy face,
    One on another's neck, do witness bear
    Thy black is fairest in my judgment's place.
    In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds,
    And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.

    CXXXII.

    Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
    Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,
    Have put on black and loving mourners be,
    Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
    And truly not the morning sun of heaven
    Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
    Nor that full star that ushers in the even
    Doth half that glory to the sober west,
    As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
    O, let it then as well beseem thy heart
    To mourn for me, since mourning doth thee grace,
    And suit thy pity like in every part.
    Then will I swear beauty herself is black
    And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

    CXXXIII.

    Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
    For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
    Is't not enough to torture me alone,
    But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?
    Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
    And my next self thou harder hast engross'd:
    Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken;
    A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross'd.
    Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward,
    But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail;
    Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
    Thou canst not then use rigor in my gaol:
    And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
    Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

    CXXXIV.

    So, now I have confess'd that he is thine,
    And I myself am mortgaged to thy will,
    Myself I'll forfeit, so that other mine
    Thou wilt restore, to be my comfort still:
    But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,
    For thou art covetous and he is kind;
    He learn'd but surety-like to write for me
    Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.
    The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take,
    Thou usurer, that put'st forth all to use,
    And sue a friend came debtor for my sake;
    So him I lose through my unkind abuse.
    Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me:
    He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.

    CXXXV.

    Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy 'Will,'
    And 'Will' to boot, and 'Will' in overplus;
    More than enough am I that vex thee still,
    To thy sweet will making addition thus.
    Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
    Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
    Shall will in others seem right gracious,
    And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
    The sea all water, yet receives rain still
    And in abundance addeth to his store;
    So thou, being rich in 'Will,' add to thy 'Will'
    One will of mine, to make thy large 'Will' more.
    Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
    Think all but one, and me in that one 'Will.'

    CXXXVI.

    If thy soul cheque thee that I come so near,
    Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy 'Will,'
    And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
    Thus far for love my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
    'Will' will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
    Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
    In things of great receipt with ease we prove
    Among a number one is reckon'd none:
    Then in the number let me pass untold,
    Though in thy stores' account I one must be;
    For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
    That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
    Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
    And then thou lovest me, for my name is 'Will.'

    CXXXVII.

    Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes,
    That they behold, and see not what they see?
    They know what beauty is, see where it lies,
    Yet what the best is take the worst to be.
    If eyes corrupt by over-partial looks
    Be anchor'd in the bay where all men ride,
    Why of eyes' falsehood hast thou forged hooks,
    Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied?
    Why should my heart think that a several plot
    Which my heart knows the wide world's common place?
    Or mine eyes seeing this, say this is not,
    To put fair truth upon so foul a face?
    In things right true my heart and eyes have erred,
    And to this false plague are they now transferr'd.

    CXXXVIII.

    When my love swears that she is made of truth
    I do believe her, though I know she lies,
    That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
    Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
    Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
    Although she knows my days are past the best,
    Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
    On both sides thus is simple truth suppress'd.
    But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
    And wherefore say not I that I am 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 flatter'd be.

    CXXXIX.

    O, call not me to justify the wrong
    That thy unkindness lays upon my heart;
    Wound me not with thine eye but with thy tongue;
    Use power with power and slay me not by art.
    Tell me thou lovest elsewhere, but in my sight,
    Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside:
    What need'st thou wound with cunning when thy might
    Is more than my o'er-press'd defense can bide?
    Let me excuse thee: ah! my love well knows
    Her pretty looks have been mine enemies,
    And therefore from my face she turns my foes,
    That they elsewhere might dart their injuries:
    Yet do not so; but since I am near slain,
    Kill me outright with looks and rid my pain.

    CXL.

    Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press
    My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain;
    Lest sorrow lend me words and words express
    The manner of my pity-wanting pain.
    If I might teach thee wit, better it were,
    Though not to love, yet, love, to tell me so;
    As testy sick men, when their deaths be near,
    No news but health from their physicians know;
    For if I should despair, I should grow mad,
    And in my madness might speak ill of thee:
    Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad,
    Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be,
    That I may not be so, nor thou belied,
    Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go wide.

    CXLI.

    In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
    For they in thee a thousand errors note;
    But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
    Who in despite of view is pleased to dote;
    Nor are mine ears with thy tongue's tune delighted,
    Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
    Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
    To any sensual feast with thee alone:
    But my five wits nor my five senses can
    Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
    Who leaves unsway'd the likeness of a man,
    Thy proud hearts slave and vassal wretch to be:
    Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
    That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

    CXLII.

    Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate,
    Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
    O, but with mine compare thou thine own state,
    And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
    Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
    That have profaned their scarlet ornaments
    And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,
    Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.
    Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lovest those
    Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
    Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows
    Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.
    If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
    By self-example mayst thou be denied!

    CXLIII.

    Lo! as a careful housewife runs to catch
    One of her feather'd creatures broke away,
    Sets down her babe and makes an swift dispatch
    In pursuit of the thing she would have stay,
    Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
    Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
    To follow that which flies before her face,
    Not prizing her poor infant's discontent;
    So runn'st thou after that which flies from thee,
    Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;
    But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
    And play the mother's part, kiss me, be kind:
    So will I pray that thou mayst have thy 'Will,'
    If thou turn back, and my loud crying still.

    CXLIV.

    Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
    Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
    The better angel is a man right fair,
    The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
    To win me soon to hell, my female evil
    Tempteth my better angel from my side,
    And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
    Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
    And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend
    Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
    But being both from me, both to each friend,
    I guess one angel in another's hell:
    Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
    Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

    CXLV.

    Those lips that Love's own hand did make
    Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'
    To me that languish'd for her sake;
    But when she saw my woeful state,
    Straight in her heart did mercy come,
    Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
    Was used in giving gentle doom,
    And taught it thus anew to greet:
    'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
    That follow'd it as gentle day
    Doth follow night, who like a fiend
    From heaven to hell is flown away;
    'I hate' from hate away she threw,
    And saved my life, saying 'not you.'

    CXLVI.

    Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
    [ ] these rebel powers that thee array;
    Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
    Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
    Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
    Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
    Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
    Eat up thy charge? is this thy body's end?
    Then soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,
    And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
    Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
    Within be fed, without be rich no more:
    So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
    And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.

    CXLVII.

    My love is as a fever, longing still
    For that which longer nurseth the disease,
    Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
    The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
    My reason, the physician to my love,
    Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
    Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
    Desire is death, which physic did except.
    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 express'd;
    For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

    CXLVIII.

    O me, what eyes hath Love put in my head,
    Which have no correspondence with true sight!
    Or, if they have, where is my judgment fled,
    That censures falsely what they see aright?
    If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote,
    What means the world to say it is not so?
    If it be not, then love doth well denote
    Love's eye is not so true as all men's 'No.'
    How can it? O, how can Love's eye be true,
    That is so vex'd with watching and with tears?
    No marvel then, though I mistake my view;
    The sun itself sees not till heaven clears.
    O cunning Love! with tears thou keep'st me blind,
    Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find.

    CXLIX.

    Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not,
    When I against myself with thee partake?
    Do I not think on thee, when I forgot
    Am of myself, all tyrant, for thy sake?
    Who hateth thee that I do call my friend?
    On whom frown'st thou that I do fawn upon?
    Nay, if thou lour'st on me, do I not spend
    Revenge upon myself with present moan?
    What merit do I in myself respect,
    That is so proud thy service to despise,
    When all my best doth worship thy defect,
    Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?
    But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind;
    Those that can see thou lovest, and I am blind.

    CL.

    O, from what power hast thou this powerful might
    With insufficiency my heart to sway?
    To make me give the lie to my true sight,
    And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
    Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
    That in the very refuse of thy deeds
    There is such strength and warrantize of skill
    That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?
    Who taught thee how to make me love thee more
    The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
    O, though I love what others do abhor,
    With others thou shouldst not abhor my state:
    If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
    More worthy I to be beloved of thee.

    CLI.

    Love is too young to know what conscience is;
    Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?
    Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
    Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:
    For, thou betraying me, I do betray
    My nobler part to my gross body's treason;
    My soul doth tell my body that he may
    Triumph in love; flesh stays no father reason;
    But, rising at thy name, doth point out thee
    As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride,
    He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
    To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
    No want of conscience hold it that I call
    Her 'love' for whose dear love I rise and fall.

    CLII.

    In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn,
    But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing,
    In act thy bed-vow broke and new faith torn,
    In vowing new hate after new love bearing.
    But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse thee,
    When I break twenty? I am perjured most;
    For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee
    And all my honest faith in thee is lost,
    For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,
    Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy,
    And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness,
    Or made them swear against the thing they see;
    For I have sworn thee fair; more perjured I,
    To swear against the truth so foul a lie!

    CLIII.

    Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep:
    A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
    And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
    In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
    Which borrow'd from this holy fire of Love
    A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
    And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
    Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
    But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new-fired,
    The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
    I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
    And thither hied, a sad distemper'd guest,
    But found no cure: the bath for my help lies
    Where Cupid got new fire--my mistress' eyes.

    CLIV.

    The little Love-god lying once asleep
    Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
    Whilst many nymphs that vow'd 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 warm'd;
    And so the general of hot desire
    Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm'd.
    This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
    Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
    Growing a bath and healthful remedy
    For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,
    Came there for cure, and this by that I prove,
    Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.
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