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Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit.
Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it,
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul’s thought, all naked, will bestow it.
Till whatsoever star that guides my moving
Points on me graciously with fair aspéct
And puts apparel on my tattered loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect.
  Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
  Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me.
My love, I am your absolute servant; your worth compels me to serve you loyally. I’m sending you this message to show my devotion to you, not to show that I can write well. My skills are so poor that I may make my obligation to you, which is great, seem meager. I don’t have the words to express it properly. But I hope that in your heart you’ll form an idea of what I mean and the idea will enrich your sense of what I owe you. When the star that guides me shines on me favorably, giving me the inspiration to dress up my tattered love for you in clever words that prove I’m worthy of your sweet respect—that’s when I’ll dare to boast about how much I love you. Until then, I won’t show my face anywhere that you can put me to the test.