Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace;
But now my gracious numbers are decay’d,
And my sick Muse doth give an other place.
I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen;
Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent
He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.
He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word
From thy behaviour; beauty doth he give,
And found it in thy cheek: he can afford
No praise to thee, but what in thee doth live.
Then thank him not for that which he doth say,
Since what he owes thee, thou thyself dost pay.
Sonnet 79: Translation to modern English
When I was the only one who sought inspiration from you it was only my verse that contained the effects of your noble grace, but now my inspired verses have declined as my muse makes room for another. I admit, sweet love, that such a lovely subject deserves the labour of a better writer. But whatever praise of your qualities your new poet makes, all he’s doing is stealing them then giving them back to you. He attributes virtue to you but he only got that word from observing you. He gives you beauty but only discovered beauty by looking at your face. He’s unable to offer any praise other than those things that he’s already found in you. So don’t be grateful for the things he says about you: because you’re paying for everything that he owes you.
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