Original Text

Modern Text

When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their ántique pen would have expressed
Ev'n such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring,
And for they looked but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing.
  For we which now behold these present days,
  Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
When in accounts of historic times I come upon descriptions of very beautiful people and read the beautiful poems inspired by them, in praise of ladies now dead and lovely knights; when I see the poems catalog their beauty—their hands, feet, lips, eyes, foreheads—I realize that these ancient writers were trying to describe the same kind of beauty that you possess now. So all the praises of these writers are actually prophecies of our time; all of them prefigure you. If the writers hadn’t been divinely inspired with this gift of prophecy, they wouldn’t have had the skill to describe your worth. Those of us who live now may be able to see your beauty firsthand and be amazed by it, but we lack the poetic skill to describe it.

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