I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set;
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet’s debt:
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory being dumb;
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life, and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.
Sonnet 83: Translation to modern English
I’ve never thought that representations of you need elaboration, so I haven’t described your beauty in elaborate verse. I could see – or thought I could see – that you were above the skills of any poet. Therefore, I’ve made no effort to represent you so that you yourself, by virtue of your very existence, would be able to demonstrate how far short modern verse would come in representing quality – the real quality that you possess. You regarded my silence as a fault, but I’m proud of it because my silence doesn’t detract from your beauty, whereas others destroy it by trying to bring it to life. There’s more life in one of your beautiful eyes than all of your poets can invent in their praise of you.