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William Shakespeare
The Sonnets




Sonnet CXXXVIII (138)

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress'd.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
Oh, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.




Sonnet CXXXVIII (138)
(With Notes)

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies, (1)
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties. (2)
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue: (3)
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed. (4)
But why does she not say she is unjust?
And why do I not say that I am old?
Oh, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told: (5)
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be. (6)

NOTES

(1) When my love swears that she is telling the truth, I believe her, even though I know deep in my heart she lies.

(2) So that she will think I'm young and naive, not at all familiar with the world's scheming ways.

(3) So my vanity believes she thinks I'm young, even though she knows I'm passed my prime, and I believe her false words.

(4) We both deceive the other. (Her in speaking falsehoods, Shakespeare in pretending to believing them)

(5) Why do we not say the truth? Because in love it is better to appear to trust, and because an ageing person in love does not like to be told they are old.

(6) So we deceive each other (and make love with each other as "lie" in Tudor times also meant "make love") and in our deception (embraces) we are both flattered (comforted).



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