Verse > Anthologies > Hunt and Lee, eds. > The Book of the Sonnet
Hunt and Lee, comps.  The Book of the Sonnet.  1867.
V. True Love Not at the Mercy of Time and Circumstance
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
LET me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no; it is an ever fixéd mark,        5
That looks on tempests and is never shaken:
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth ’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love ’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;        10
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even unto the edge of doom.
  If this be error, and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 1
Note 1. It would be difficult to cite a finer passage of moral poetry than this description of the master passion. How true and how ennobling to our nature! We at once recognize in it the abstraction of that conception which has found a dwelling and a name in the familiar forms of Desdemona, Juliet, Imogen, Cordelia, of Romeo, and of Othello, too, if that character be correctly understood. If this sonnet was written before his dramas, then it was the pregnant thought from which were destined to spring those inimitable creations of female character that have been loved, as if they were living beings, by thousands.
  “Admit impediments” is very prosaic. It would not at all do to sing. Yet in a poet like Shakespeare, who had words and will, and who if he had chosen to do so, could have begun his sonnet in a strain the most musical, the phrase, in reading, acquires a sort of deliberate commencing dignity. We know how much poetry will follow. Nor do the grand peremptory words disappoint us. [back]

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