That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspéct,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being wooed of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstainèd prime.
Thou hast passed by the ambush of young days,
Either not assailed, or victor being charged;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy evermore enlarged.
If some suspéct of ill masked not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.
The fact that people say bad things about you won’t be held against you, because beautiful people have always been the target of slander. Beautiful people are always the objects of suspicion, a black crow darkening heaven. As long as you’re good, you’re a target of temptation; slander just proves how worthy you are. For vice, like a worm, loves to devour the sweetest buds the most, which makes you—in your prime, pure and unstained—a perfect target. You’ve escaped the traps that usually endanger young men, because either no one tempted you or you resisted the temptation. However, this praise I’ve given you won’t inflate your reputation so much that it keeps envious people from talking, because they always will. If your beauty weren’t masked by at least some suspicion of evil, you’d be the most beloved person in the world.