That thou hast her it is not all my grief,
And yet it may be said I loved her dearly;
That she hath thee is of my wailing chief,
A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
Loving offenders thus I will excuse ye:
Thou dost love her, because thou know’st I love her;
And for my sake even so doth she abuse me,
Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her.
If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain,
And losing her, my friend hath found that loss;
Both find each other, and I lose both twain,
And both for my sake lay on me this cross:
But here’s the joy; my friend and I are one;
Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.
Sonnet 42: Translation to modern English
That you have her isn’t the only thing that’s upsetting me, although I can tell you I loved her dearly. That she has you is the main reason that I’m crying – a loss of love that hurts me more. This is how I’ll make excuses for you two offenders in love: You love her because you know I love her. And in the same way, she abuses me for my own sake, putting up with my friend making love to her because she knows I love him. If I lose you my loss is my mistress’ gain. And in losing her my friend is gaining. You both gain each other and I lose both of you. And both lay this burden on me for my own sake. But here’s the happy part: my friend and I are one person. What flattery! So she loves only me!