Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
‘Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.

Sonnet 34: Translation to modern English

Why did you, like the sun, promise such a beautiful day and make me go out without my cloak then hide your brilliance behind the poisonous vapours of those nasty clouds, only to let them overtake me as I went? It’s not good enough to break through the clouds and dry the the rain off my storm-beaten face because no-one can be satisfied with a balm that heals the wound but doesn’t cure the hurt. Nor can the shame you exhibit help: even though you’re repentant, I’m still bereft. An offender’s regret doesn’t give much relief to the one who has been badly offended. Ah, but those tears you’re shedding out of love are like pearls: they are very valuable and make up for all your bad deeds.

2 replies
  1. John
    John says:

    I’m not sure that the translation is helpful, or just another way of stating the same thing without analysis. I also note that the “original” is in modern English (a photo of the original type-set text is on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet_34). The words have largely retained their meaning since Shakespeare’s time, so a simple close reading will be just as helpful, while keeping the rhythm and shape of the words.


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