Original Text

Modern Text

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odor which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumèd tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly,
When summer’s breath their maskèd buds discloses;
But for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwooed, and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made;
  And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth;
  When that shall vade, my verse distills your truth.
Beauty seems so much more beautiful when it comes with honesty and integrity. Roses are beautiful, but we think they’re even more so because of their sweet scent. Wildflowers have as deep a color as fragrant roses; their thorns are the same, and their beauty broadcasts just as loudly when summer opens their buds. But because their only virtue is their looks, no one wants or respects them and they die unnoticed and alone. Sweet roses don’t suffer that fate. When they die, the most fragrant perfumes are made from their corpses. The same is true of you, beautiful youth. When you fade away, my poems will preserve your essence.

Popular pages: Shakespeare’s Sonnets