That thou hast her it is not all my grief,
And yet it may be said I loved her dearly;
That she hath thee is of my wailing chief,
A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
Loving offenders thus I will excuse ye:
Thou dost love her, because thou know'st I love her;
And for my sake even so doth she abuse me,
Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her.
If I lose thee, my loss is my love's gain,
And losing her, my friend hath found that loss;
Both find each other, and I lose both twain,
And both for my sake lay on me this cross:
But here's the joy; my friend and I are one;
Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.
Here the poet has to justify infidelity, a far more difficult task, and set against the background that the beloved should be irreproachable, the traditions of sonnet writing are wittily parodied.
Nevertheless there lingers a bitter aftertaste, for despite all the sophistry of excuse and justification, the poet is left to mull over his loss, and the joy and sweet flattery which he claims to find in the concluding couplet ring hollow. They sound very much like gratuitous and foolish self deception. The beloved has everything and his lover, the poet, must content himself with the shadow of a love, a love who has betrayed him and found joy and consolation in the arms of another.
The 1609 Quarto Version
THat thou haſt her it is not all my griefe,
And yet it may be ſaid I lou'd her deerely,
That ſhe hath thee is of my wayling cheefe,
A loſſe in loue that touches me more neerely.
Louing offendors thus I will excuſe yee,
Thou dooſt loue her,becauſe thou knowſt I loue her,
And for my ſake euen ſo doth ſhe abuſe me,
Suffring my friend for my ſake to aprooue her,
If I looſe thee,my loſſe is my loues gaine,
And looſing her,my friend hath found that loſſe,
Both finde each other,and I looſe both twaine,
And both for my ſake lay on me this croſſe,
But here's the ioy,my friend and I are one,
Sweete flattery,then ſhe loues but me alone.