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.
Sonnet 26: Translation to modern English
Lord of my love, whose merit has ensured that I will serve you loyally, I send this written message to you to demonstrate my devotion, not my intellectual skills – devotion so vast that my skill seems bare and meaningless by comparison, because I can’t find the words to express it. I nevertheless retain the hope that some imaginative inspiration deep in your heart will bestow some meaning on my completely bare love. Only when whichever star that guides my actions looks on me with a benign and gracious blessing, and puts clothes on my ragged love so that I will appear worthy of your respect, will I dare to proclaim my love for you. Until then I dare not reveal myself for you to put it to the test.