Sonnet XXIII: As an unperfect actor on the stage
As an unperfect actor on the stage
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart.
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharged with burden of mine own love's might.
O, let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love and look for recompense
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
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;
Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O, but with mine compare thou thine own state,
Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said "I hate"
To me that languished for her sake.
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
These rebel powers that thee array;
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
O, from what power hast thou this powerful might
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
Love is too young to know what conscience is;
Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
So shall I live, supposing thou art true,
Like a deceived husband; so love's face
May still seem love to me, though alter'd new;