Sonnets in Modern English

Sonnet 18

Original Text
Modern Paraphrase
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.
  So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Shall I compare you to a summer day? You’re lovelier and milder. Rough winds shake the pretty buds of May, and summer doesn’t last nearly long enough. Sometimes the sun shines too hot, and often its golden face is darkened by clouds. And everything beautiful stops being beautiful, either by accident or simply in the course of nature. But your eternal summer will never fade, nor will you lose possession of your beauty, nor will death brag that you are wandering in the underworld, once you’re captured in my eternal verses. As long as men are alive and have eyes with which to see, this poem will live and keep you alive.


Sonnet 116

Original Text
Modern Paraphrase
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
  If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
I hope I may never acknowledge any reason why minds that truly love each other shouldn’t be joined together. Love isn’t really love if it changes when it sees the beloved change or if it disappears when the beloved leaves. Oh no, love is a constant and unchanging light that shines on storms without being shaken; it is the star that guides every wandering boat. And like a star, its value is beyond measure, though its height can be measured. Love is not under time’s power, though time has the power to destroy rosy lips and cheeks. Love does not alter with the passage of brief hours and weeks, but lasts until Doomsday. If I’m wrong about this and can be proven wrong, I never wrote, and no man ever loved.


Sonnet 130

Original Text
Modern Paraphrase
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 have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
  And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
  As any she belied with false compare.
My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun. Coral is much redder than the red of her lips. Compared to the whiteness of snow, her breasts are grayish-brown. Poets describe their mistresses’ hair as gold wires, but my mistress has black wires growing on her head. I have seen roses that were a mixture of red and white, but I don’t see those colors in her cheeks. And some perfumes smell more delightful than my mistress’s reeking breath. I love to hear her speak; yet I know perfectly well that music has a far more pleasant sound. I admit I never saw a goddess walk; when my mistress walks, she treads on the ground. And yet, by heaven, I think my beloved is as special as any woman whom poets have lied about with false comparisons.


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Page Last Updated: 4 April 2012