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That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo'd of time:
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present'st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast pass'd by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail'd or victor being charg'd;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy, evermore enlarg'd:
   If some suspect of ill mask'd not thy show,
   Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts should'st owe.


After the hint given to his friend in the preceding Sonnet, the poet declares that the allegations referred to were slanders, the result of suspicion. Slander ever fastens on the purest characters. His friend's prime was unstained, such an affair as that with the poet's mistress not being regarded, apparently, as involving serious moral blemish. Moreover, there had been forgiveness; and the special reference here may be to some charge of which Mr. W. H. was innocent. But (as in lxxix.) Shakespeare can scarcely escape the charge of adulation. This Sonnet was probably intended to mitigate the influence of what had been said in lxix.

1. Blame is no proof of blameworthiness.

3. Suspicion is so usually associated with beauty that it may be regarded as its wonted ornament.

5. So thou be good -- If thou be good.

6. Being woo'd of time. This must be taken, it would seem, with "slander" of line 5. The sense will then be that "slander coming under the soothing influence of time will show thy worth to be greater;" or, "slander will turn to praise in course of time, and your true character will shine forth." Thy at beginning of this line is in Q. "Their."

7 For canker vice, &c. This line has been illustrated by "As the most forward bud is eaten by the canker ere it blow," &c., Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act i. sc. I, lines 45, 46. But the "canker vice" of our text is slander or envy.

9. The ambush of young days. The vices to which youth is prone.

10. Charg'd. Attacked, assailed.

11, 12. Yet this praise of thine cannot have such efficacy as to restrain envy, which is ever busy.

13, 14. If the influence of thy beauty were not abated by evil suspicion all would be devoted to thee. Owe -- Possess, as elsewhere.

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2013. < >.

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