Internet Shakespeare Editions

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  • Title: The Sonnets (Modern)
  • Editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Sonnets (Modern)

    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,
    1895And beauty slandered with a bastard shame.
    For since each hand hath put on nature's power,
    Fairing the foul with art's false borrowed face,
    Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
    But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
    1900Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
    Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
    At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
    Sland'ring creation with a false esteem.
    Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
    1905 That every tongue says beauty should look so.
    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
    1910The 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!
    1915To 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 blessed than living lips.
    Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
    1920 Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.
    Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame
    Is lust in action; and till action, lust
    Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody, full of blame,
    1925Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
    Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight;
    Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
    Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
    On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
    1930Mad 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
    1935 To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.