Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose,
Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name!
O! in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose.
That tongue that tells the story of thy days,
Making lascivious comments on thy sport,
Cannot dispraise, but in a kind of praise;
Naming thy name blesses an ill report.
O! what a mansion have those vices got
Which for their habitation chose out thee,
Where beauty’s veil doth cover every blot
And all things turns to fair that eyes can see!
Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege;
The hardest knife ill-used doth lose his edge.
Sonnet 95: Translation to modern English
How sweet and lovely you make the flaw appear that is spoiling your reputation, just as a blight spoils the reputation of a fragrant rose! Oh, with what a sweet exterior you cover over your sins! Those who talk about you, while commenting on your lustful ways, can’t help couching that criticism in the language of praise. Just the mention of your name makes bad actions appear good. Oh what a beautiful house those vices that chose you as their home have – a place where the veil of beauty covers every flaw and everything that’s visible appears beautiful! Be careful, dear heart, of this great privilege: even the hardest knife will lose its edge if abused.