That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being wooed of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present'st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast passed by the ambush of young days
Either not assailed, or victor being charged;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy, evermore enlarged,
If some suspect of ill masked not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.
The poet attempts to defend his beloved against the slanderous accusations of the previous sonnet. Some casuistry is involved, as usually happens in these cases, but the conclusion is reasonably serene, and the power of the youth to rule over others by his beauty and perfection is acknowledged. If there were no blemishes, real or imaginary, attached to him, then surely he would be the wonder of the world and whole kingdoms would fall at his feet.
The 1609 Quarto Version
THat thou art blam'd ſhall not be thy defect,
For ſlanders marke was euer yet the faire,
The ornament of beauty is ſuſpect,
A Crow that flies in heauens ſweeteſt ayre.
So thou be good,ſlander doth but approue,
Their worth the greater being woo'd of time,
For Canker vice the ſweeteſt buds doth loue,
And thou preſent'ſt a pure vnſtayined prime.
Thou haſt paſt by the ambuſh of young daies,
Either not aſſayld,or victor beeing charg'd,
Yet this thy praiſe cannot be ſoe thy praiſe,
To tye vp enuy,euermore inlarged,
If ſome ſuſpect of ill maskt not thy ſhow,
Then thou alone kingdomes of hearts ſhouldſt owe.