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Shakespeare's Sonnets

Poems (sonnets)

SONNET 21

Such vain thought as wonted to mislead me In desert hope by well assured moan, Maketh me from company to live alone In following her whom reason bid me flee. She fleeeth as fast by gentle cruelty, And after her mine heart would fain be gone, But armed sighs my way do stop anon, Twixt hope and dread lacking my liberty. Yet, as I guess, under disdainful brow, One beam of pity is in her cloudy look, Which comforteth the mind that erst for fear shook. And, therewithall bolded, I seek the way how To utter the smart that I suffer within; But such it is I not how to begin.
Suche vayn thought as wonted to myslede me : In desert hope by well assured mone : Maketh me from compayne to live alone : In folowing hir whome reason bid me fle. She fleith as fast by gentill crueltie : And after her myn hert would fain be gone : But armed sighes my way do stop anon : Twixt hope and drede lacking my libertie. Yet, as I gesse, under disdaynfull browe, One beame of pitie is in her clowdy loke, Which comforteth the mind that erst for fere shoke. And, therewithall bolded, I seke the way how To utter the smert that I suffre within ; But suche it is I not how to begyn.

NOTES

wonted = was accustomed to. desert hope = a desert of hope?? well assured moan = unmistakeable, well-justified moans. would fain be gone = desires to follow. my way do stop anon = immediately bar my route. erst = erstwhile, recently. therwithal = by this (the one beam of pity). bolded = emboldened. to utter = to speak out, to describe. the smart = the pain. But such it is = but it is so great. I not how = I know not how.

SONNET 22

I abide and abide and better abide, And, after the old proverb, the happy day, And ever my lady to me doth say, "Let me alone and I will provide". I abide and abide and tarry the tide And with abiding speed well ye may. Thus do I abide I wot alway, N' other obtaining nor yet denied. Aye me! this long abiding Seemeth to me, as who sayeth, A prolonging of a dying death, Or a refusing of a desired thing. Much were it better for to be plain, Than to say abide and yet shall not obtain.
I abide and abide and better abide, And, after the olde proverbe, the happie daye : And ever my ladye to me dothe saye, "Let me alone and I will provyde". I abide and abide and tarrye the tyde And with abiding spede well ye maye : Thus do I abide I wott allway. Nother obtayning nor yet denied. Aye me ! this long abidyng Semithe to me as who sayethe A prolonging of a dieng dethe, Or a refusing of a desyred thing. Moche ware it bettre for to be playne, Then to saye abide and yet shall not obtayne.

NOTES

abide = wait (patiently). after the old proverb, the happy day = I await, as the proverb says, for a happier (more fortunate) day. I will provide = I will provide satisfaction. tarry the tide = wait for the tide to turn. And with abiding speed well ye may = it is possible that, by waiting, you (one) may be successful. I wot alway = I reckon, forever. N'other = no other, nothing. as who sayeth = as one might describe it. and yet shall not obtain = even though (she knows) that he (I or anyone) will not obtain his desire.

SONNET 23

Divers doth use, as I have heard and know, When that to change their ladies do begin, To moan and wail, and never for to lin, Hoping thereby to pease their painful woe. And some there be, that when it chanceth so That women change, and hate where love hath been, They call them false, and think with words to win The hearts of them which otherwhere doth go. But as for me, though that by chance indeed Change hath out-worn the favour that I had, I will not wail, lament, nor yet be sad, Nor call her false that falsley did me feed, But let it pass and think it is of kind, That often change doth please a woman's mind.
Dyvers doth use as I have hard and kno, When that to chaunge ther ladies do beginne, To mone and waile, and never for to lynne, Hoping therby to pease their painefull woo. And some ther be, that when it chaunceth soo That women chaunge, and hate wher love hath bene, Thei call them fals, and think with wordes to wynne The hartes of them which otherwhere doth goo. But as for me, though that by chaunse indede Change hath out-worne the favor that I had, I will not wayle, lament, nor yet be sad, Nor call her fals that falsley ded me fede : But let it passe and think it is of kinde, That often chaunge doeth plese a womans minde.

NOTES

Divers = various people. doth use = are accustomed to. to lin = to cease. pease = appease, pacify. did me feed = fed me (with hopes). of kind = natural.

SONNET 24

My love took scorn my service to retain Wherein methought she usèd cruelty, Since with good will I lost my liberty To follow her which causeth all my pain. Might never care cause me for to refrain, But only this which is extremity, Giving me nought, alas, nor to agree That as I was, her man I might remain. But since that thus ye list to order me, That would have been your servant true and fast, Displease thee not my doting days be past, And with my loss to leave I must agree. For as there is a certain time to rage, So is there time such madness to assuage.
My love toke skorne my servise to retaine Wherin methought she usid crueltie : Sins with good will I lost my libretye To followe her wich causith all my payne. Might never care cause me for to refrayne : But onlye this wich is extremytie : Gyving me nought, alas, nor to agre That as I was her man I might remayne. But sins that thus ye list to ordre me, That wolde have bene your servaunt true and faste, Displese the not, my doting dayes bee paste : And with my losse to leve I must agre. For as there is a certeyne tyme to rage. So is ther tyme suche madnes to aswage.

NOTES

My love etc. = my love scorned to retain my services. Might never care = anguish would never. refrain = question, examine; complain? (See OED refrayne). only this = only this action of yours, refusing me. That as I was etc. = that as I was her lover, I might be allowed to remain so. ye list = you desire. Displease thee not = let it not displease you that. And with my loss etc. = I must agree to losing you and leaving you.

SONNET 25

To rail or jest ye know I use it not Tho' that such cause sometime in folks I find; And tho' to change ye list to set your mind, Love it who list, in faith I like it not. And if ye were to me as ye are not, I would be loath to see you so unkind. But since your faith must needs be so, be kind, Though I hate it, I pray you love it not. Things of great weight I never thought to crave: This is but small: of right deny it not. Your feigning ways as yet forget them not, But like reward let other lovers have. That is to say: for service true and fast To long delays and changing at the last.
To rayle or jest ye know I use it not Tho that such cause somtyme in folkes I finde : And tho to chaunge ye list to sett your mind, Love yt who list, in faithe I like yt not. And if ye ware to me as ye are not, I would be lothe to se you so unkinde ; But sins your faith muste nedes be so, be kinde, Though I hate it, I praye you love yt not. Thinges of grete waight I never thought to crave : This is but small : of right denye it not : Your fayning wayis as yet forget them not, But like rewarde let other lovers have. That is to saye : for servis true and faste To long delaies and chaunging at the laste.

NOTES

rail = harangue. I use it not = I am not in the habit of. ye list to set your mind = you are desirous of. Love it who list = let those who wish praise it if they must. in faith - a mild oath. I like it not - i.e. I do not like your fickleness. And if ye were etc. = if you were my beloved, though indeed you no longer are. unkind = unnatural, cruel. kind = natural, like yourself (i.e. remain fickle, so that you may hurt other lovers as you have hurt me, as lines 12-14 explain). fast = steadfast, constant. to long delays - i.e. subject them to long delays.

SONNET 26

Unstable dream, according to the place, Be steadfast once, or else at least be true. By tasted sweetness make me not to rue The sudden loss of thy false feigned grace. By good respect, in such a dangerous case, Thou broughtest not her into this tossing mew, But madest my sprite live my care to renew, My body in tempest her succour to embrace. The body dead, the sprite had his desire Painless was th'one : th'other in delight; Why then alas, did it not keep it right, Returning to leap into the fire? And where it was at wish it could not remain, Such mocks of dreams they turn to deadly pain.
Unstable dreme, according to the place, Be stedfast ons : or els at leist be true : By tasted swetenes make me not to rew The sudden losse of thy fals fayned grace. By goode respect, in such a daungerous case, Thou broughtes not her into this tossing mew ; But madest my sprite lyve my care to renew, My body in tempest her succor to embrace. The body ded, the spryt had his desir Paynles was thon) : thothr in delight ; Why then alas, did it not keep it right, Retorning to lepe into the fire ? And where it was at wysshe it could not remain, Such mockes of dremes they torne to dedly pain.

NOTES

according to the place = fitting your appearance to the place in which I am dreaming ?? rue = regret. By good respect = with good intentions?? In such a dangerous case - i.e. To me, who am in great danger of being misled by you (the dream). mew = cage. Perhaps his body tossing and turning as in a nightmare. sprite = spirit, soul. my care to renew = in order to renew my sorrow. My body etc. = and my body etc. And where it was at wish etc. = and where it wished to be, i.e. with the beloved. Such mocks of dreams etc = dreams are such mockery, they turn to etc.

SONNET 27

You that in love find luck and abundance, And live in lust and joyful jollity, Arise, for shame, do away your sluggardy; Arise, I say, do May some observance! Let me in bed lie dreaming in mischance; Let me remember the haps most unhappy, That me betide in May most commonly, As one whom love list little to advance. Sephanes said true that my nativity Mischanced was with the ruler of the May. He guessed, I prove of that the verity; In May, my wealth, and eke my life I say Have stonde so oft in such perplexity. Rejoice! let me dream of your felicity.
You that in love finde lucke and habundaunce, And live in lust and joyful jolitie, Arise, for shame, do away your sluggardie; A rise, I say, do may some observaunce ! Let me in bed lye dreming in mischaunce ; Let me remembre the happs most unhappy, That me betide in May most comonly, As oon whome love list litil to advaunce. Sephanes saide true that my nativitie Mischaunced was with the ruler of the May : He gest, I prove of that, the veritie ; In May, my welth, and eke my liff I say Have stonde so oft in such perplexitie. Reioyse ! let me dreme of your felicitie.

NOTES

sluggardy = laziness, idleness. do May some observance = celebrate this May morning. Let me in bed etc. - i.e. let me lie in bed wailing my misfortunes (you have no such excuse). the haps most unhappy = the most disastrous events. betide = occur, happen. list little to advance = has little or no wish to profit. Sephanes = unknown. Perhaps a contemporary soothsayer. nativity = birth. mischanced = was placed by misfortune. with = alongside, in the same stellar conjunction with. the ruler of May = the Lord of May, a character found amongst Morris dancers, sometimes equated with Robin Hood. I prove = I confirm by my experience. verity = truth. eke = also. stonde = stood (an archaic past tense). Rejoice! - i.e. Carry on rejoicing over this May morning, while I lie in bed, dreaming of your happiness.

SONNET 28

If waker care ; if sudden pale Colour; If many sighs, with little speech to plain, Now Joy, now woe, if they my cheer distain, For hope of small, if much to fear therefore; To haste to slack my pace less or more, Be sign of love, then do I love again. If thou ask whom; sure, since I did refrain Brunet, that set my wealth in such a roar, Th'unfeigned cheer of Phillis hath the place That Brunet had; she hath and ever shall. She from myself now hath me in her grace : She hath in hand my wit, my will, my all: My heart alone well worthy she doth stay, Without whose help, scant do I live a day.
If waker care ; if sodayne pale Coulor : If many sighes, with litle speche to playne, Now Joy, now woo if they my chere distayne, For hope of small, if muche to fere therfore ; To hast to slake my passe lesse or more, By signe of love, then do I love agayne. If thou aske whome ; sure, sins I did refrayne Brunet, that set my welth in such a rore, Thunfayned chere of Phillis hath the place That Brunet had ; she hath and ever shal. She from my self now hath me in her grace : She hath in hand my wit, my will, my all : My hert alone wel worthie she doeth staye, Without whose helpe, skant do I live a daye.

NOTES

waker = wakeful. little speech to plain = not much complaining speech. distain = sully, discolour. For hope of small = because of the hope of a small (reward). if much to fear therefore = if there appears to be great fear as a result (of this hope). To haste etc. = to speed up or slow down my pace erratically. refrain = give up, reject. Brunet = a girl's name. Or perhaps a dark haired girl. set my wealth in a roar = squandered my wealth. She from myself = she, by my consent. worthy = worthily. doth stay = supports, upholds. scant = scarcely. verity = truth.

SONNET 29

The pillar perished is whereto I leant, The strongest stay of mine unquiet mind; The like of it no man again can find, From East to West, still seeking though he went. To mine unhap! for hap away hath rent Of all my joy, the very bark and rind; And I (alas) by chance am thus assigned Dearly to mourn till death do it relent. But since that thus it is by destiny, What can I more but have a woeful heart, My pen in plaint, my voice in woeful cry, My mind in woe, my body full of smart. And I my self, my self always to hate Till dreadfull death do ease my doleful state.
The piller pearishd is whearto I lent : The strongest staye of myne unquyet mynde ; The lyke of it no man agayne can fynde, Ffrom East to West, still seking thoughe he went. To myne unhappe ! for happe away hath rent Of all my joye, the verye bark and rynde; And I (alas) by chaunce am thus assynde Dearlye to moorne till death do it relent. But syns that thus it is by destenye, What can I more but have a wofull hart, My penne in playnt, my voyce in wofull crye, My mynde in woe, my bodye full of smart. And I my self, my self always to hate Till dreadfull death, do ease my dolefull state.

NOTES

whereto = upon which To mine unhap = to my misfortune. This line is dependent on line 1. hap = fortune. away hath rent = has torn away the bark and rind (the very essence) of all my joys. assigned = allotted the fate. dearly = grievously. My pen in plaint = my pen writing laments.

SONNET 30

Such is the course that nature's kind hath wrought That snakes have time to cast away their stings; Gainst chained prisoners what need defence be sought? The fierce lion will hurt no yelden things. Why should such spite be nursed in thy thought, Sith all these powers are pressed under thy wings, And thou seest and reason thee hath taught What mischief malice many ways it brings. Consider eke that spite availeth naught; Therefore this song thy fault to thee it sings; Displease thee not, for saying thus me thought, Nor hate thou him from whom no hate forth springs; For furies that in hell be execrable, For that they hate are made most miserable.
Such is the course that natures kind hath wrought That snakes have time to cast away their stynges; Ainst chainde prisoners what nede defence be sought? The fierce lyon will hurt no yelden thinges. Why should such spite be nursed in thy thought, Sith all these powers are prest under thy wnges; And thou sest and reason thee hath taught What mischief malice many waies it brings. Consider eke that spight availeth naught; Therefore this song thy fault to thee it singes; Displease thee not, for saiying thus, me thought, Nor hate thou him from whom no hate forth springes; For furies that in hell be execrable, For that they hate are made most miserable.

NOTES

yelden = yielded, submissive. sith = since. peare = appear. pressed = gathered, impressed, as in an army. What mischief etc. = what evil malice brings in its train by divers means. eke = also. for saying thus me thought = for thus speaking to you my thoughts. For that = because.

SONNET 31

The flaming sighs that boil within my breast Sometime break forth; and they can well declare The hearts unrest, and how that it doth fare, The pain thereof, the grief, and all the rest. The watered eye, from whence the tears do fall, Do feel some force or else they would be dry; The wasted flesh of colour dead can try, And something tell what sweetness is in gall. And he that lust to see, and do discern, How care can force within a wearied mind, Come he to me : - I am that place assigned. But for all this no force it doth, no harm; The wound, alas, hap in some other place, From whence no tool away the scar can rase. But you, that of such like have had your part, Can best be judge: wherefore, my friend so dear, I thought it good my state should now appear To you, and that there is no great desert. And where as you, in weighty matters great Of fortune saw the shadow that you know: For trifling things, I now am stricken so; That though I feel my heart doth wound and beat, I sit alone, save on the second day My fever comes, with whom I spend the time In burning heat while that she list assign. And who hath health and liberty alway Let him thank God, and let him not provoke To have the like of this my painfull stroke.
The flaming sighes that boyle within my brest Sometime breake forth ; and they can well declare The hartes unrest, and how that it doth fare, The pain therof, the grief, and all the rest. The watred eyen, from whence the teares doe fall, Do fele some force or els they would be drye : The wasted flesh of color ded can trye. And something tell what swetenesse is in gall. And he that luste to see, and do disarne, How care can force within a weried minde, Come he to me : - I am that place assynd. But for all this no force it doth no harme ; The wound alas happe in some other place, From whence no toole away the skar can race. But you, that of such like have had your part, Can best be judge : wherefore, my frend so deare, I thought it good my state should now appeare To you, and that ther is no great desart. And wher as you, in weighty matters great Of fortune saw the shadow that you know : For trifling thinges, I now am striken so ; That though I fele my hart doth wound and beat, I sit alone, save on the second day My fever comes, with whom I spend the time In burning heat while that she list assigne. And who hath helth and libertie alway Let him thank God, and let him not provoke To have the like of this my painfull stroke.

NOTES

of colour dead can try = can show what the colour of dead flesh is. gall = a bitter substance. he that lust = he who desires. how care can force = how sorrow can use force. that place assigned = the place appointed (to give this demonstration). hap = occurs, is found. some other place = i.e. my heart, and not my body. that of such like have had your part = that have had similar experiences. wound = wind?? i.e. keep going. while that she list assign = while she disposes of me as she wishes?? this my painful stroke = this love of mine, which causes such pain.