As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put beside his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharg’d with burthen of mine own love’s might.
O! let my looks be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love, and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.
Sonnet 23: Translation to modern English
Like an unrehearsed actor on the stage, who forgets his lines because of nervousness, or some angry animal overwhelmed with rage so that in spite of its strength it is weakened by its loss of control, I, not trusting myself, am unable to articulate the love I feel, and the strength of my love seems to be less than it is, overloaded with the weight of my beloved’s dominating power. Oh, let my looks then be the speakers and the signals of my speaking heart, that begs for love and hopes for reciprocation, more eloquent than that tongue that more usually expresses the heart. Oh, learn to read the volumes that my silent love has written. To hear with eyes is something characteristic of lovers.
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