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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Sonnets to Cælia

By William Browne (c. 1590–c. 1645)

FAIREST, when by the rules of palmistry,

You took my hand to try if you could guess,

By lines therein, if any wight there be

Ordained to make me know some happiness:

I wished that those charácters could explain,

Whom I will never wrong with hope to win;

Or that by them a copy might be ta’en,

By you alone what thoughts I have within.

But since the hand of nature did not set

(As providently loath to have it known)

The means to find that hidden alphabet,

Mine eyes shall be the interpreters alone:

By them conceive my thoughts, and tell me, fair,

If now you see her that doth love me, there.

WERE ’t not for you, here should my pen have rest,

And take a long leave of sweet poesy;

Britannia’s swains, and rivers far by west,

Should hear no more my oaten melody.

Yet shall the song I sung of them awhile

Unperfect lie, and make no further known

The happy loves of this our pleasant Isle,

Till I have left some record of mine own.

You are the subject now, and, writing you,

I well may versify, not poetize:

Here needs no fiction; for the graces true

And virtues clip not with base flatteries.

Here should I write what you deserve of praise;

Others might wear, but I should win, the bays.

FAIREST, when I am gone, as now the glass

Of Time is marked how long I have to stay,

Let me entreat you, ere from hence I pass,

Perhaps from you for ever more away,—

Think that no common love hath fired my breast,

No base desire, but virtue truly known,

Which I may love, and wish to have possessed,

Were you the highest as fairest of any one.

’Tis not your lovely eye enforcing flames,

Nor beauteous red beneath a snowy skin,

That so much binds me yours, or makes your fame’s,

As the pure light and beauty shrined within:

Yet outward parts I must affect of duty,

As for the smell we like the rose’s beauty.