Original Text

Modern Text

Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing;
  Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
  Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none.”
You’re like music to listen to, so why does listening to music make you sad? Delightful and joyful things should complement one another. So why do you love things that make you unhappy and enjoy things that are bad for you? If music played well and in tune sounds bad to you, it’s because that music is rebuking you for not playing your own part—not making your own harmony—by getting married and having children. Notice how the sound of two strings vibrating together in harmony is like a father and child and happy mother, who all sing one pleasing note together. Though their music has no words, the unity of their voices sings this warning to you: If you stay single, you’ll be a childless nobody.

Popular pages: Shakespeare’s Sonnets