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O benefit of ill! now I find true
That better is by evil still made better;
And ruin'd love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
So I return rebuk’d to my content,
And gain by ill thrice more than I have spent.
That you were once unkind, befriends me now,
And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,
Needs must I under my transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammer'd steel.
For if you were by my unkindness shaken,
As I by yours, you have pass'd a hell of time;
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffer'd in your crime.
O that our night of woe might have remember'd.
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
And soon to you, as you to me, then tender'd
The humble salve which wounded bosoms fits!
But that your trespass now becomes a fee ;
Mine ransoms yours,
must ransom me.
'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.
For why should others' false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood ?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good ?
No.-I am that I am; and they that level
At my abuses, reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel ;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
• Bevel— bent in an angle.
Unless this general evil they maintain,-
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.
Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full character'd with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain,
Beyond all date, even to eternity :
Or at the least so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to raz'd oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be miss’d.
That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive thee more :
To keep an adjunct to remember thee,
Were to import forgetfulness in me.
No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change :
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old ;
And rather make them born to our desire,
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wondering at the present nor the past;
For thy records and what we see do lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste:
This I do vow, and this shall ever be,
I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee :
If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for Fortune's bastard be unfather'd,
says, “ That poor retention is the table-book given to him by his friend, incapable of retaining, or rather of containing, so much as the tablet of the brain.”
As subject to Time's love, or to Time's hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather’d.
No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto the inviting time our fashion calls :
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-number'd hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic,
That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with showers.
To this I witness call the fools of time,
Which die for goodness, who have liv'd for crime.
Were it aught to me I bore the canopy,
With my extern the outward honouring,
Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which prove more short than waste or ruining ?
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all, and more, by paying too much rent,
For compound sweet foregoing simple savour,
Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent ?
No;—let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
Which is not mix'd with seconds, knows no art,
But mutual render, only me for thee.
• Seconds. Mr. Dyce considers this word a misprint. The only note on the passage in the variorum editions is that of Steevens :—“I am just informed by an old lady that seconds is a provincial term for the second kind of flour, which is collected after the smaller bran is sifted. That our author's oblation was pure, unmired with baser matter, is all that he meant to say." Mr. Dyce calls this note “preposterously absurd.” Steevens, however, knew what he was doing. He mentions the flour, as in almost every other note upon the Sonnets, to throw discredit upon compositions with which he could not sympathise. He had a sharp, cunning, pettifogging mind; and he knew many prosaic things well enough. He knew that a second in a duel, a seconder in a debate, a secondary in ecclesiastical affairs, meant one next to the principal. The poet's friend has bis chief oblation ; no seconds, or inferior persons, are mixed up with his tribute of affection.
In the copy of the Sonnets in the Bodleian Library, formerly belonging to Malone (and which is bound in the same volume with the • Lucrece,' &c.), is a very cleverly drawn caricature representing Shakspere addressing a periwig-pated old fellow in these lines :
Hence, thou suborn'd informer! a true soul,
When most impeach'd, stands least in thy control.
O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold Time's fickle glass, his sickle, hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow'st!
If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace, and wretched minutes kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure ;
She may detain, but not still keep her treasure:
Her audit, though delay'd, answer'd must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.
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,
And beauty slander'd with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on nature's power,
Fairing the foul with art's false borrow'd face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy hour,
But is profan'd, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
eyes so suited; and they mourners seem At such, who, not born fair, no beauty lack, Slandering creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says, beauty should look so.
“ If thou couldst, Doctor, cast The water of my Sonnets, find their disease, Or purge my Editor till he understood them,
I would applaud thee." Under this Malone has written, “Mr. Steevens borrowed this volume from me in 1779, to peruse the Rape of Lucrece,' in the original edition, of which he was not possessed. When he returned it he made this drawing. I was then confined by a sore throat, and attended by Mr. Atkinson, the apothecary, of whom the above figure, whom Shakspere addresses, is a caricature."
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
The 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!
To 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 bless'd than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjur’d, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoy'd no sooner, but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof,—and prov'd, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream:
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red :
* Jacks. The small hammers, moved by the keys, which strike the strings of virginal. In the comedy of “ Ram Alley,' we have
“ Where be these rascals that skip up and down
Like virginal jacks?