Original Text

Modern Text

Let not my love be called idolatry,
Nor my belovèd as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
Kind is my love today, tomorrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse to constancy confined,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
Fair, kind, and true is all my argument,
Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent—
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
  Fair, kind, and true have often lived alone,
  Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.
Let no one call my love


The humor of this sonnet is that while defending himself against the charge of idolatry, the speaker echoes language traditionally used by Christians to describe God.

or say that I treat my beloved as an idol, since all of my poems and praises have been addressed to one person, are about one person, and always will be. My love is kind today, will be kind tomorrow, always constant in wondrous excellence. Therefore, since my poetry is confined to a subject that’s always the same, it always expresses the same thing, never including anything different. The subject of my poems is the beautiful, kind, and faithful. I write about the beautiful, kind, and faithful in various ways, and this is the task that I expend all of my creativity on—three themes rolled up in one person, which offers an amazing scope for poetic invention. Beauty, kindness, and fidelity have often been divided into different people, but the three of them were never together in one person until now.

Popular pages: Shakespeare’s Sonnets