Shakespeare's Sonnets Translation Sonnet 23
As an unperfect actor on the stage, Who with his fear is put besides his part, Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage, Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart; So I, for fear of trust, forget to say The perfect ceremony of love’s rite, And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay, O'ercharged with burden of mine own love’s might. O let my books be then the eloquence And dumb presagers of my speaking breast, Who plead for love and look for recompense More than that tongue that more hath more expressed. O learn to read what silent love hath writ! To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.
As an unprepared actor on stage,
Who, because of fear, forgets his part,
Or as some fierce thing filled with too much rage,
Who has so much strength that it weakens his own heart;
So I, afraid to trust myself, forget to complete
The ceremony of love's ritual
And in the strength of my love I become weak
Overwhelmed with the burden of my love's greatness.
Oh, then let my books be the eloquence
And silent prophets of what my heart is saying,
Who make the case for its love and look for something in return
More than the other tongue that says more than I do.
Oh, learn to read what silent love has written!
To hear through the eyes is a skill that belongs to love's intelligence.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
- Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
- Downloads of 965 LitCharts Lit Guides
- Explanations and citation info for 22,053 quotes covering 965 books
- Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
- PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms