They that have power to hurt, and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces,
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others, but stewards of their excellence.
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself, it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.
Sonnet 94: Translation to modern English
They who have the power to hurt and won’t do it; who seem to be the epitome of some act but won’t commit it, who arouse others to sexual excitement but are themselves like stone – cold, unemotional and not easily led into temptation – they will rightly inherit heaven’s graces and prevent nature’s treasures from being wasted. They are in possession of themselves; the rest are only managing their beauty for others’ use. The summer flower is lovely when at its peak, although it’s only fulfilling its function of living and dying, but if it falls victim to a serious infection the vilest weed will be better because the sweetest things become the most unattractive as a result of their bad deeds. Rotting lilies smell far worse than weeds.
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