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.
A sonnet that is one of the 'frenzied' group that starts with 147, My love is as a fever longing still, and continues up to150, possibly also including the last two of the series, 151 and 152. What is striking about this one is the number of echoes it brings back from the earlier sonnets to the youth, perhaps because it is seeking deliberately to contrast the pure love of that period with the tainted love he has for his dark lady, possibly because the language of love, as it was then defined, forced upon the sonneteer a certain number of conventional ideas which were used and re-used, many re-appearing frequently in slightly different clothing, like a play which is performed by too few actors. Here the poet protests his devotion to his cruel beloved, detailing the many ways in which he has shown willingness to serve her. Nevertheless she is unresponsive, and does not repay love with love. His conclusion is framed in the conventional terms of the blindness of love, and the deduction that his mistress does not love those who cannot see what is before their eyes. It is probably not necessary to interpret the conclusion in any real psychological sense, for one suspects it has little or no bearing on what the woman herself was thinking. Its importance is more that it shows the poet casting round desperately for a solution, trying to come to terms with his rejection, and in the end only succeeding in explaining it in terms of rather worn out sonneteering conventions, which leave him as blind as ever.
The 1609 Quarto Version
CAnſt thou o cruell,ſay I loue thee not,
When I againſt my ſelfe with thee pertake :
Doe I not thinke on thee when I forgot
Am of my ſelfe, all tirant for thy ſake?
Who hateth thee that I doe call my friend,
On whom froun'ſt thou that I doe faune vpon,
Nay if thou lowrſt on me doe I not ſpend
Reuenge vpon my ſelfe with preſent mone?
What merrit do I in my ſelfe reſpect,
That is ſo proude thy ſeruice to diſpiſe,
When all my beſt doth worſhip thy defect,
Commanded by the motion of thine eyes.
But loue hate on for now I know thy minde,
Thoſe that can ſee thou lou'ſt,and I am blind.