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Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all too precious you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
Giving him aid, my verse astonishèd.
He, nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,
As victors of my silence cannot boast.
I was not sick of any fear from thence;
  But when your countenance filled up his line,
  Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine.
Was it the ambitious and impressive poem that my rival wrote for you that discouraged me from writing my own poem, killing my thoughts before I could put them into words? Was it his creative power, aided by the

spirits

The ghosts who visit the rival poet at night, both helping and tricking him, are very difficult to explain. They seem to refer to something in Shakespeare’s time that is now unknown.

spirits
of all the dead authors he’s read so that he writes better than any mortal should, that stunned me into silence? No, it was neither him nor those friends of his who visit him at night and help him, who silenced me with amazement. Neither he nor that friendly little ghost that tricks him with false information each night can boast that they’re responsible for my silence. I wasn’t sick because of any fear of them. But when you looked favorably on his writing and thus made it even better, then I suddenly had nothing to say, and you made my writing feeble.