Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems
- 1Fair is my love, but not so fair as fickle;
- 2Mild as a dove, but neither true nor trusty;
- Editor’s Note3Brighter than glass, and yet as glass is brittle;
- 4Softer than wax, and yet as iron rusty:
- 5A lily pale with damask dye to grace her,
- 6None fairer, nor none falser to deface her.
- Critical Apparatus7Her lips to mine how often hath she joinèd,
- 8Between each kiss her oaths of true love swearing.
- Critical Apparatus9How many tales to please me hath she coinèd,
- Editor’s Note10Dreading my love, the loss whereof still fearing.
- Critical Apparatus11Yet in the midst of all her pure protestings
- 12Her faith, her oaths, her tears and all were jestings.
- Editor’s Note13She burnt with love as straw with fire flameth;
- 14She burnt out love as soon as straw out-burneth;
- Editor’s Note15She framed the love, and yet she foiled the framing;
- 16She bade love last, and yet she fell a-turning.
- 17Was this a lover, or a lecher, whether?
- Editor’s Note18Bad in the best, though excellent in neither.
poem 7 There is a version in Folger MS V.a.339, fo. 197v which is attributed to 'W.S.' in what is probably the hand of J. P. Collier. The MS shows remarkably few variants from the printed text. The poem could have been written by almost any competent poet at work between 1575 and 1599.
3 brittle The spelling 'brickle' (common in the period) would have made this rhyme. 5–6 i.e. she has skin as white as lilies with cheeks the red of damask roses (on which see Sonnet 130.5 n.); no one is lovelier than her, but she is discredited/made ugly (deface) by her infidelity, which also cannot be equalled.
7 joinèd] o2; Ioynd fol9
9 coinèd] o2; Coynd fol9
10 Dreading being fearful about
11 midst] q3; mids o2
13 straw was proverbial for burning fiercely for a very short time. (Cf. Dent F255 and Tilley F270.)
15 framed made, contrived. (Roe suggests 'made a setting for'; this sense of 'frame' is not recorded before the eighteenth century.)
18 Bad … neither i.e. she was bad as a lover (the best), but she did not excel even as a lecher.