Sonnet 152: In Loving Thee Thou Know'st I Am Forsworn

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 perjured 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 perjured eye,
To swear against the truth so foul a lie!

by William Shakespeare

Comments (3)

This concluding sonnet in the sequence to the dark lady fills the reader with a sense of unease. This is probably because, knowing that it is the last one, we expect a resolution in some way, a farewell sonnet, or a renunciation of bondage, or a hope that the love he has found, for all its imperfections, will live on forever, growing and maturing as the two grow older, or more infatuated, or more knowing. But no such denouement is to be found. We are left with the uncertainty of unknowing, and a resolution that is solved only by irresolution.
The language of this sonnet, more than any other, leans heavily on the language of the law courts - 'Do you solemnly swear that the evidence you will give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? '. (for) sworn is used 4 times; swear(ing) 3 times; oaths 4 times; vow(s) twice; perjured twice; truth twice; faith twice; and honest and constancy are also to be found. It seems as if the writer is setting up for trial, in the court of posterity, the justification for his love, a justification which he undermines at every turn. He cannot find the words or reasons that will sanction this love, yet he will not abandon it, and if it is a lie against the truth, then so be it, for love must sometimes break the mould of the predictable world around us and enrich our lives with the tawdry and imperfect, rather than provide us with the ideal and cold beauty which is the subject of our endless and futile searching.
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