Shakespeare’s Sonnet #20: “A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted”

 

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;

Reading of Sonnet 20

Click on video to play 

The images in the YouTube video are from an original 1609 edition of Shake-speares Sonnets held by the British Library.  It is one of only thirteen copies in existence.  Images courtesy of the Octavo Corporation.

Modernized Spelling and Punctuation

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure.

Simplified Modern English Translation

A woman’s face created by Nature’s hand,
have you, the master-mistress of my passion;
a woman’s gentle heart, but not prone
to shifting change, which is the tendency of many women these days.
Your eyes are more bright than theirs, and less false in rolling,
turning to gold anything you look at;
a man whose perfection surpasses and controls all others,
a fact which causes you to be attractive to both men and women.
You were actually initially meant to be a woman;
but Nature, as she began creating you, became enamored with you
and turned you into a man at the last minute
by adding “one thing”  that she wanted, which disqualifies you from being my partner.
But since she “pricked” you out to provide pleasure to women,
I will be your platonic lover, and any physical relationships will be reserved for the opposite sex.

Text from Original 1609 Quarto

Transcription courtesy of University of Virginia Library:

A womans face with natures owne hand painted,
Haste thou the Master Mistris of my passion,
A womans gentle hart but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false womens fashion,
An eye more bright then theirs, lesse false in rowling:
Gilding the obiect where-vpon it gazeth,
A man in hew all Hews in his controwling,
Which steales mens eyes and womens soules amaseth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a dotinge,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prickt thee out for womens pleasure,
Mine be thy loue and thy loues vse their treasure.

 



 Posted by at 9:08 am

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