Reading of Sonnet 26
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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
Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit;
Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it,
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul’s thought, all naked, will bestow it;
Till whatsoever star that guides my moving
Points on me graciously with fair aspect
And puts apparel on my tottered loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect.
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me.
Simplified Modern English Translation
Lord of my love, to whom I devote all my services
in humble recognition of your great worth,
to you I send this compilation of sonnets.
I do this to show my duty to you, not to show off my skill.
This duty to you is great, even though my weak skill as a poet
is insufficient to express it, because of my inability to find the appropriate words;
but I do hope that some charitable understanding
from somewhere deep within your soul will find a way to accept me as I am,
until which time the stars line up for me and
provide some good fortune in my life
that add some respectability to these tattered lines of love
to show me truly worthy of your sweet respect.
Only at that point might I openly boast about how I love you,
until then, I will keep a low profile as a precaution.
Text from Original 1609 Quarto
Transcription courtesy of University of Virginia Library:
Lord of my loue, to whome in vassalage
Thy merrit hath my dutie strongly knit;
To thee I send this written ambassage
To witnesse duty, not to shew my wit.
Duty so great, which wit so poore as mine
May make seeme bare, in wanting words to shew it;
But that I hope some good conceipt of thine
In thy soules thought (all naked) will bestow it:
Til whatsoeuer star that guides my mouing,
Points on me gratiously with faire aspect,
And puts apparrell on my tottered louing,
To show me worthy of their¹ sweet respect,
Then may I dare to boast how I doe loue thee,
*Til then, not show my head where thou maist proue me
* indicates fully justified line, compositor may have adjusted spelling to fit the line.
Wording differences between the text and the reading are noted with a superscript: