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Sonnets of William Shakespeare


That you were once unkind, befriends me now,

And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,

Needs must under my transgression bow,

Unless my nerves were brass or hammer'd steel.

For if you were by my unkindness shaken,

As I by yours, you have pass'd a hell of time;

And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken

To weigh how once I suffer'd in your crime.

O that our night of woe might have remember'd

My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,

And soon to you, as you to me, then tender'd

The humble salve which wounded bosoms fits!

But that your trespass now becomes a fee;

Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.



'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.



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 raz'd 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.



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 do 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.



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 liv'd for crime.



Were it 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 foregoing 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.



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.


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