Sonnets 141–154

Sonnet 141
In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote.
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue's tune delighted;
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unsway'd the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart's slave and vassal wretch to be:
     Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
     That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

Sonnet 142
Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profan'd their scarlet ornaments
And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.
Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov'st those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.
     If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
     By self-example mayst thou be denied!

Sonnet 143
Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch
One of her feather'd creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe, and makes all swift dispatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;
Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant's discontent;
So runn'st thou after that which flies from thee,
Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;
But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
And play the mother's part, kiss me, be kind;
     So will I pray that thou mayst have thy 'Will,'
     If thou turn back and my loud crying still.

Sonnet 144
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil,
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell:
     Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
     Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

Sonnet 145
Those lips that Love's own hand did make,
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate',
To me that languish'd for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was us'd in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
That followed it as gentle day,
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
     'I hate', from hate away she threw,
     And sav'd my life, saying 'not you'.

Sonnet 146
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
My sinful earth these rebel powers array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body's end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
     So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
     And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.

Sonnet 147
My love is as a fever longing still,
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly express'd;
     For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
     Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

Sonnet 148
O me! what eyes hath Love put in my head,
Which have no correspondence with true sight;
Or, if they have, where is my judgment fled,
That censures falsely what they see aright?
If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote,
What means the world to say it is not so?
If it be not, then love doth well denote
Love's eye is not so true as all men's: no,
How can it? O! how can Love's eye be true,
That is so vexed with watching and with tears?
No marvel then, though I mistake my view;
The sun itself sees not, till heaven clears.
     O cunning Love! with tears thou keep'st me blind,
     Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find.

Sonnet 149
Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not,
When I against myself with thee partake?
Do I not think on thee, when I forgot
Am of my self, all tyrant, for thy sake?
Who hateth thee that I do call my friend,
On whom frown'st thou that I do fawn upon,
Nay, if thou lour'st on me, do I not spend
Revenge upon myself with present moan?
What merit do I in my self respect,
That is so proud thy service to despise,
When all my best doth worship thy defect,
Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?
     But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind,;
     Those that can see thou lov'st, and I am blind.

Sonnet 150
O! from what power hast thou this powerful might,
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O! though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state:
     If thy unworthiness rais'd love in me,
     More worthy I to be belov'd of thee.

Sonnet 151
Love is too young to know what conscience is,
Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:
For, thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler part to my gross body's treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason,
But rising at thy name doth point out thee,
As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride,
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
     No want of conscience hold it that I call
     Her 'love,' for whose dear love I rise and fall.

Sonnet 152
In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn,
But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing;
In act thy bed-vow broke, and new faith torn,
In vowing new hate after new love bearing:
But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse thee,
When I break twenty? I am perjur'd most;
For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee,
And all my honest faith in thee is lost:
For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,
Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy;
And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness,
Or made them swear against the thing they see;
     For I have sworn thee fair; more perjur'd I,
     To swear against the truth so foul a lie.!

Sonnet 153
Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow'd from this holy fire of Love,
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seeting bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distemper'd guest,
     But found no cure, the bath for my help lies
     Where Cupid got new fire; my mistress' eyes.

Sonnet 154
The little Love-god lying once asleep,
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow'd chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm'd;
And so the general of hot desire
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarm'd.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy,
For men diseas'd; but I, my mistress' thrall,
     Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
     Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.


  1. The speaker is describing how he has been affected by his relationship with the dark lady. Because their love is one of a purely sexual nature, the “rise” refers to the poet’s erection, symbolizing the shallowness of relationships of the flesh. The “fall” refers to the “nobler” relationships of the mind and soul. Because the speaker’s body has betrayed his soul, he has fallen into a place of darkness and confusion.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Sonnet 151 compares the noble love of the soul with the lust of the flesh. The speaker values the love from the soul as “nobler,” however, due to the lady’s seduction, the speaker has fallen victim to the “treason of the body”—sex and lust. His “gross body” betrays the soul by being “contented” by the dark lady. He uses these comparisons as a condemnation of bodily desire. In the speaker’s eyes, a true love is one of the soul, not the flesh.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. In this final couplet, the speaker is both begging for attention and admitting his own flaws. He states that because he loves the dark lady’s flaws—her “unworthiness”—then he is all the more deserving of her reciprocated affection. However, this couplet can also be read as the speaker’s own self-deprecation. If his perception is so warped and if he finds her flaws attractive, then perhaps the dark lady is the only love worth having.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. The noun “warrantise," a word that’s largely been eliminated from contemporary vocabulary, is the state of being guaranteed. Here, it refers to the skill with which the speaker’s lover acts.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. This line demonstrates the power of beauty to deceive. The speaker has been so manipulated that he is unable to use his true senses. Here, it is not love creating the veil over the speaker’s eyes, but the speaker’s own dishonesty. He is able to see all the dark lady’s flaws, but her beauty has made it impossible for the speaker to be honest with himself. The speaker is in total denial of his situation.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Throughout Sonnet 150, there is a clear hierarchical power structure between the two lovers. This hierarchy is seen most clearly in the use of the words “worship” and “command.” The speaker sees his lover as a sort of goddess or queen—someone to be worshipped and deified. He uses all his energy and willpower to praise even the worst aspects of her character. And she responds by exerting more power over him. The speaker is under the dark lady’s full control. There is also a vast difference in the amount of effort put into the relationship by the two characters. Where the speaker invests “all [his] best” in her “defects,” the dark lady responds with continued hate and oppression.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. This sonnet provides insight into the characters of the speaker and the dark lady. She has manipulated him so greatly that he will defend her before himself. Her cruelty is embodied by her lack of reciprocation. Although addressing the dark lady, the speaker never explicitly says who he’s addressing, referring to her as “cruel,” “tyrant” or, finally, “love.” The choice to use these words instead of a more specific address connects to the theme of the cruel and manipulative nature of love. The speaker’s anger toward the dark lady is one and the same with his anger toward Love.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The speaker states that he would be able to see his lover’s faults were it not for the deceptive power of love. As usual, he is fully aware of the deception working upon him. He acknowledges the “tears” that “keep’st me blind.” The tears act as a screen through which the speaker is forced to see his lover. Other than masking the “foul faults” of his lover, the speaker offers no other purpose for the deception. The speaker is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the idea of love and increasingly aware of the power it has over him.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Sonnet 148 is primarily about the deceptive power of love. The speaker confesses his confusion regarding public opinions about the dark lady, which clash with his own views. Because his love has made him blind to the faults of the dark lady, the speaker is unable to see her the way that the rest of the world sees her. However, the use of “true” indicates that the speaker knows that his perception is being manipulated. The speaker is aware of the manipulation and deceit, but powerless against it.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. This sonnet ends with a spiteful couplet that expresses one of the larger themes of the dark lady series. The deceptive beauty of the dark lady has corrupted not only the speaker, but also his perception of love. What once was full of joy is now “black as hell, and dark as night.” The speaker’s beliefs about the power of love in this sonnet are completely different from his initial, more optimistic beliefs at the start of the collection of sonnets. In the hands of the dark lady, love has turned into a deceptive and corruptive force, something to be scorned rather than celebrated.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. In Sonnet 147 the speaker explains the extent to which the dark lady has ruined his life. Using medical metaphors—likening his “love” and “reason” to “a fever” and “the physician,” respectively—he acknowledges that his desire has brought him to a place from which there is no return. His reason and logic, which have thus far kept his desires from consuming him, fail at their duty. The metaphor that “desire is death” is complicated. It can be read as a condemnation of desire, playing on the theme that desire and lust lead to one’s downfall. However, considering the medical conceit of this sonnet, “desire is death” could also be a final diagnosis. Where reason is the physician and love is the illness, unrestrained desire is the illness gone to its fullest and most lethal stage.

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Sonnet 154 is the final poem in Shakespeare’s sequence and is nearly identical to Sonnet 153 in theme and narrative. The “little Love-god” who loses his “brand” to a virginal nymph is the Roman love god Cupid, who loses his brand to one of Diana’s maidens in the prior poem. Once again, the nymph plunges the brand into “a cool well,” producing a healing bath warmed by “Love’s fire.” The conclusion is also familiar. The speaker comes to the bath to be cured of his immense, sickening desire for his mistress. He finds no cure there, learning that while “Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.” The moral of Sonnet 154 serves as a fitting final note to Shakespeare’s entire sequence of tumultuous love poems: there is no cure for the painful passions of eros.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Sonnets 153 and 154 bear no narrative relation to the rest of the sequence. Their inclusion and placement in the sequence was the choice of Thomas Thorpe, who compiled and published the collection. These final two sonnets are written in a mode popular in Shakespeare’s time: lively meditations built on tales from classical mythology. In Sonnet 153, the octave tells a story about Cupid, the Roman god of love and lust. Cupid falls asleep and has his “brand”—the arrow that sparks human desire—stolen by one of Diana’s nymphs, who plunges it into a “cold valley-fountain.” The valley spring, charged with “lively heat,” becomes a healing place for men afflicted with “strange maladies.” In the sestet, the speaker claims that the spring cannot cure his love-sickness, only a gaze from the very source of his woes—“my mistress’ eyes.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. chThe sonnet’s sestet, the six lines following the volta, trace the speaker’s process of disillusionment with the dark lady. The speaker has placed great faith in the dark lady’s many oaths and promises—“of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy.” The speaker uses the metaphors of vision and perjury to figure the decay of these oaths. The speaker claims to have “enlighten[ed]” the dark lady, making his eyes “swear against the thing they see” and seeing her as better than she really is. In the final couplet, the speaker claims to have committed perjury—testifying against the truth—by having “sworn thee fair.” Thus the dark lady sonnets end: not in resolution and appreciation, but bitterness and disenchantment.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. The conceit of angels and devils guiding humans in opposing moral directions originated during the 1st century CE. The playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, employs the same conceit in his 1593 tragedy Doctor Faustus. In Sonnet 144, the fair youth is the angel, a being of purity and comfort. The dark lady is the “worser spirit,” who is so seductive that she has not only tempted the speaker to sin, but is now tempting his “angel” as well. Note that the battle between the angel and the devil plays out as the speaker watches on the sidelines. He has already been condemned to hell in the afterlife for lusting after the “female evil.” Now he is condemned to hell on earth since he has been abandoned by both of his loves.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. In Sonnet 152, the final sonnet of the dark lady sequence, the speaker accuses the dark lady of being unfaithful and turning against their shared love. While the speaker admits he has “forsworn,” or renounced, loving the dark lady, he claims that she has committed two such forswearances. Not only has she ceased to love the speaker, she has also “thy bed-vow broke”—she has broken their vow of fidelity. In the second stanza, the speaker pivots in his perspective. He admits to having broken twenty oaths, and so he recognizes the hypocrisy in accusing the dark lady “of two oaths’ breach.” It is a recognition of mutual wrongdoing, for the speaker acknowledges both the wretchedness of his own oaths—which are “but to misuse thee”—and of those of the dark lady—“all my honest faith in thee is lost.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. After the volta, the speaker develops a solution to the soul’s problem. Acknowledging the inevitable decay of the body—the “servant’s loss”—the speaker encourages his soul to transform physical loss into spiritual growth, to “within be fed.” In the final couplet, the speaker seeks to transform Death itself in this ravening, expansive process of soul. The logic is strange but coherent: if the soul feeds on decay, then it may “feed on Death”; if the soul continues to do so, Death itself will eventually die, at which point “there’s no more dying.” As a result, the soul’s problem is seemingly solved, allowing it to make a claim on eternity.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. Sonnet 146 opens with the poet addressing his soul, asking it a series of questions about why it pursues earthly pleasures rather than caring for its own purity. The sonnet develops an extended metaphor of the body as a mansion, which the soul has “so short a lease” on. Rather than focusing on the state of the soul that lives within the mansion, the speaker has spent “so large [a] cost” on painting the outside and excessively indulging in physical pleasures. The body is on “lease” from Nature, but the soul is eternal, so the speaker beseeches his soul to take the wealth that has been spent on the body and instead store it “within,” so that the soul can “be fed.”

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. Many scholars have theorized that Sonnet 145 is not written to the dark lady. Because of its anomalous meter and lack of relevance to the surrounding sonnets, Critic Andrew Gurr has postulated that Sonnet 145 was written by a young Shakespeare to his wife, Anne Hathaway. According to Gurr, the Early Modern pronunciation of the phrase “hate away” would have been almost identical to “Hathaway,” and the phrase “And sav’d my life” would have sounded like “Anne saved my life.” Critics who have adopted Gurr’s theory speculate that Sonnet 145 was written in Shakespeare's youth and included in the sequence by the publisher Thomas Thorpe, which accounts for the divergence in style. Other critics have proposed alternative theories, with some claiming that Sonnet 145 was written in an effort to lighten the mood, while others posit that Shakespeare did not write the sonnet at all.
    ANDREW GURR; Shakespeare's First Poem: Sonnet 145, Essays in Criticism, Volume XXI, Issue 3, 1 April 1971, Pages 221–226.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. Sonnet 145 is the only one of the entire sequence not written in iambic pentameter. Instead it takes up iambic tetrameter. The shorter meter contributes to a lighter mood, with the tone shifting away from the heavier considerations of Sonnet 144 in lieu of presenting a more gentle, almost comic, interaction between lovers. The dark lady begins by saying “‘I hate,’” but upon seeing the anguish it causes for the speaker, amends her statement to “‘I hate[…] not you.’” That this resolution arrives at the end of the final couplet allows the suspense of the speaker’s distress to encompass the entire poem. The exchange ultimately comes across as playful in its treatment of the lady’s statement, conjuring associations with the feigned hatred that chaste maidens were supposed to show for their amorous suitors before ultimately giving in to their advances.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. At the root of the speaker’s conflict are the contrasting types of love he has for the fair youth and the dark lady. His love for the youth is emotional and selfless, sometimes verging on idolatry. In contrast, the speaker’s love for the dark lady is sensual and shameful, built on lust. In light of this, the first quatrain of Sonnet 144 can be read in two different ways. By one interpretation, the “better angel,” the fair youth, gives comfort while the “worser spirit,” the dark lady, gives despair. However, this line can also be read as saying that both of the speaker’s loves give him comfort and despair, a reading supported by his tortured reactions to the infidelity of both of his lovers.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. Sonnet 143 employs an extended simile that compares the dark lady’s neglect of the speaker in favor of pursuing other men to a housewife’s neglect of her baby in favor of pursuing a runaway chicken. The implication is that, rather than spend time nurturing their relationship, she is chasing after other men. However, it also portrays the speaker in a rather pitiful light. He urges the lady to “play the mother’s part,” casting himself as a man who is needy and dependent on the dark lady for maternal affection. The closing couplet concedes that even if she must chase after other men, the speaker hopes that she will return to him when she is through.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. Notice the contrasts established between “loving sin” and “virtu[ous] hate.” The nature of love is a common theme in the sonnet tradition, which abounds with frustrated lovers bemoaning their lack of physical satisfaction. Typically, passionate speakers begin sonnets by expressing their devotion for their beloveds, only to be rebuffed in the name of virtue. The cold, beautiful beloveds were considered hateful for their chastity. The speaker parodies this tradition by casting the dark lady in the role of the chaste maiden who virtuously rejects her suitor. The inaccuracy of the comparison is cemented as the speaker accuses the dark lady of hypocrisy, telling her that they are both lustful adulterers and that his love for her is no less “lawful” than her “false bonds of love.” He urges her to take “pity” on him, emotionally and sexually, lest she end up alone and rejected by her other lovers.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. On the surface, the final line of Sonnet 141 refers tothe lady’s rejections and infidelities, which cause the speaker “pain” because he loves her. However, the use of the phrase “awards me pain” adds a potential religious context. It is a common conceit in the sonnet tradition for love to considered “sinful,” since it encourages amorous and unchaste thoughts. In orthodox Christian doctrine, sins needed to be confessed and repented. Though uncommon in practice, pain, whether self-inflicted or administered by others, was considered a way in which sinners could pay penance. By the logic of penance, the “pain” the dark lady “awards” becomes the speaker’s “gain.”

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. Sonnet 141 reprises the sentiments of Sonnet 130, exploring the sensory experience of the dark lady. The ongoing conflict between the eyes and the heart continues, with the other senses joining the argument as well.The use of anaphora in lines 5-7 serves to emphasize that the dark lady is not pleasing to any of the speaker’s senses through the repetition of the negative conjunction “nor.” However, neither the speaker’s “five wits” nor his “five senses” can dissuade his “foolish heart” from loving her anyways. Love, the “blind fool,” has also proved itself deaf and otherwise insensate.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff