If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for Fortune’s bastard be unfathered,
As subject to time’s love or to time’s hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flow’rs with flowers gathered.
No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto th’ inviting time our fashion calls.
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short numb’red hours.
But all alone stands hugely politic,
That it nor grows with heat nor drowns with showers.
To this I witness call the fools of time,
Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.

Sonnet 124: Translation to modern English

If the great love which I have for you had been created simply by circumstances it would be like an illegitimate child – at the mercy of changing circumstances. It would be subject to fashion – what’s in or out at any given time – rejected when seen as weeds and embraced when seen as flowers. No, it was created with more resolve. It’s affected neither by the approval of authority nor by the challenge to authority, which is the current fashion. It isn’t afraid of political plotting, which operates in a short time span, but stands alone – independent, wise and secure – neither growing in sunshine nor drowning in showers. As witness to that I call all those fashion-followers who, after living bad lives, repented on their deathbeds in the hope of transforming that bad into good.

1 reply
  1. peterv
    peterv says:

    The translation of the last two lines is incorrect. The original says that the fools of time have lived for crime, but die for goodness. This certainly does not mean that they repent on their deathbed. It could mean their actions while alive are considered crimes (sinis), but they consider themselves to have been acting in good faith, and are willing to die for that belief.


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