So is it not with me as with that Muse,
Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,
Making a couplement of proud compare
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare,
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.
O! let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fixed in heaven’s air:
Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell.
Sonnet 21: Translation to modern English
I am not like that poet who uses artificial comparisons, even images of heaven itself, to enhance his descriptions of his loved one, tediously likening every beautiful object to his love, in exaggerated comparisons with the sun and the moon, the fresh spring flowers, and all those wonderful things that reflect heaven on earth. Oh, let me be truthful in love but match that with truth in my poems. Believe me, then, my love is as beautiful as anyone else, although not as bright as the stars. Let those who love gossip say, if they want to, that I won’t praise something that I have no intention of selling.