What potions have I drunk of siren tears,
Distilled from limbecks foul as hell within,
Applying fears to hopes, and hopes to fears,
Still losing when I saw myself to win!
What wretched errors have my heart committed,
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never!
How have my eyes out of their sheres been fitted
In the distraction of this maddening fever!
O benefit of ill, now I find true
That better is by evil still made better;
And ruined love when it is built anew
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater,
So I return rebuked to my content,
And gain by ills thrice more than I have spent.
Sonnet 119: Translation to modern English
What seductive potions I have drunk – sweet but distilled in reality from substances foul as hell – applying doubt to my hopes and hope to my doubts, ever losing just as I think myself to be on the brink of victory! What wretched mistakes my heart made at a time when I felt I had never been so blessed! How my eyes have popped out of their sockets in the throes of this maddening fever! But oh, the benefits of evil! Now I can see it’s true that good things can be made better by evil and that ruined love can become even better when it’s rebuilt – stronger and far greater. And so I return, chastened, to the one who makes me happy and, because of the evils I’ve committed, I get back three times what I’ve spent.
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