Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Poems

William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare: Poems.  1914.

Sonnet CXXI.

“’Tis better to be vile than vile esteem’d”

’TIS better to be vile than vile esteem’d 
When not to be receives reproach of being; 
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deem’d 
Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing: 
For why should others’ false adulterate eyes         5
Give salutation to my sportive blood? 
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies, 
Which in their wills count bad what I think good? 
No, I am that I am, and they that level 
At my abuses reckon up their own:  10
I may be straight though they themselves be bevel; 
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown; 
  Unless this general evil they maintain, 
  All men are bad and in their badness reign. 



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