If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.’

Sonnet 32: Translation to modern English

If you survive me when my happy life is over and churlish death has covered my bones with dust, and you should by chance read again these poor, crude poems by your dead friend, compare them with the better poems that are being written these days. And though my poems are being outstripped by every other poet, keep them for love of me, not for their poetic quality, exceeded by the brilliant poems of better poets. So grant me just this one loving thought: “If my friend’s inspiration had been matched by the poetic excellence of the present time his love would have produced better poems than these, good enough to be ranked alongside those of today’s good poets. But since he died and poets are better now, I’ll read theirs for their style and his for his love.”

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