The Sonnets

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This page is for select quotations of The Sonnets of William Shakespeare; for the complete set of poems, see The Sonnets at Wikisource.


From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die


When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed of small worth held


Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another

Die single and thine image dies with thee.


Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thy self thy beauty's legacy?
Nature's bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free


Flowers distill'd, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.


Be not self-will'd, for thou art much too fair
To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir.


Lo! in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty


Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy


Beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.


For shame! deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thy self art so unprovident.


Let those whom nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish:


Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality...


When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment...


To give away yourself, keeps yourself still,
And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.


If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say 'This poet lies


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate


Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
And burn the long-liv'd phoenix, in her blood

Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

O! let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother's child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix'd in heaven's air...


O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.


For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.


Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love's loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.

Their images I lov'd, I view in thee,
And thou — all they — hast all the all of me.

  • If thou survive my well-contented day,
    When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover,
    And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
    These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
    Compare them with the bettering of the time,
    And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
    Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
    Exceeded by the height of happier men.

  • Being your slave, what should I do but tend
    Upon the hours and times of your desire?
    I have no precious time at all to spend,
    Nor services to do, till you require.
  • Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
    And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
    Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
    And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow

This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have, that which it fears to lose.


O! none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.


Tired with all these, for restful death I cry


No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe.


That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.


I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life, and bring a tomb.

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.

Who is it that says most, which can say more,
Than this rich praise, — that you alone, are you?

  • Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing
    And like enough thou know’st thy estimate:
    The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
    My bonds in thee are all determinate.

  • And having thee, of all men's pride I boast:
    Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
    All this away and me most wretched make.

  • They that have power to hurt and will do none,
    That do not do the thing they most do show,
    Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
    Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow:
    They rightly do inherit heaven's graces

  • How like a winter hath my absence been
    From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
    What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
    What old December’s bareness everywhere!

Truth needs no colour, with his colour fixed;
Beauty no pencil, beauty's truth to lay;
But best is best, if never intermixed?

Because he needs no praise, wilt thou be dumb?
Excuse not silence so, for't lies in thee

My love is strengthen'd, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandiz'd, whose rich esteeming,
The owner's tongue doth publish every where.


To me, fair Friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed
Such seems your beauty still.


For we, which now behold these present days,
Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.


Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confin'd doom.


What's in the brain, that ink may character,
Which hath not figur'd to thee my true spirit?


For nothing this wide universe I call
Save thou, my Rose; in it thou art my all.


Love is a babe, then might I not say so,
To give full growth to that which still doth grow?


If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.

'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

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name


The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action

  • My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
    Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
  • I grant I never saw a goddess go, —
    My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torment me with disdain,
Have put on black and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.


Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is't not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?


Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy 'Will,'
And 'Will' to boot, and 'Will' in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex'd thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.


When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.


In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote.

'I hate', from hate away she threw,
And sav'd my life, saying 'not you'.

  • Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
    [Fool'd by] these rebel powers that thee array,
    Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
    Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?


Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly express'd;

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

O! how can Love's eye be true,
That is so vexed with watching and with tears?
No marvel then, though I mistake my view;
The sun itself sees not, till heaven clears.


If thy unworthiness rais'd love in me,
More worthy I to be belov'd of thee.


Love is too young to know what conscience is,
Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?


For I have sworn thee fair; more perjur'd I,
To swear against the truth so foul a lie!


Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.