I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set.
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet’s debt.
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb.
For I impair not beauty, being mute,
When others would give life, and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.
It never seemed to me that you needed to be praised, so I never described your beauty with profuse or elaborate rhetoric. I could see (or I thought I could see) that you were better than any praise a poet could give you. Therefore, I haven’t exerted myself to describe you, so that you yourself, since you’re still alive, could show everybody how much more worthy you are than my commonplace writing style can describe. You decided that this silence on my part was a fault, but I’m particularly proud of my muteness. By remaining silent, at least I don’t damage your beauty, whereas other writers try to bring you to life in their writing, and kill you instead. You possess more life in one of your beautiful eyes than all of your poets could invent by praising you.