Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all too precious you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
Giving him aid, my verse astonished.
He, nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence
As victors of my silence cannot boast;
I was not sick of any fear from thence:
But when your countenance fill’d up his line,
Then lack’d I matter; that enfeebled mine.
Sonnet 86: Translation to modern English
Was it the power of his poetry, intended to win you, that prevented me from putting my thoughts into words? Was it his creativity, influenced by writers now dead, that makes him write better than anyone else that beat me into silence? No, it wasn’t he, nor the great dead writers from whom he learns by reading them during the night, that inhibited my verse. Neither he nor that friendly ghost that tricks him with false information every night can boast of victory in this question of my silence. I wasn’t impaired because of any fear of them, but when you paid his verse attention, thereby making it more significant than it is, I found I had nothing to say. So it was you that made my verse feeble