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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 46


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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 46
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Sonnet 46



In this first of another pair of sonnets (perhaps a witty thank-you for the gift of a miniature portrait), the poet’s eyes and his heart are in a bitter dispute about which has the legal right to the beloved’s picture. The case is brought before a jury made up of the poet’s thoughts. This jury determines that the eyes have the right to the picture, since it is the beloved’s outer image; the heart, though, has the right to the beloved’s love.

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
How to divide the conquest of thy sight.
Mine eye my heart thy picture’s sight would bar,
4My heart mine eye the freedom of that right.
My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie,
A closet never pierced with crystal eyes;
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
8And says in him thy fair appearance lies.
To ’cide this title is impanelèd
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,
And by their verdict is determinèd
12The clear eyes’ moiety and the dear heart’s part,
 As thus: mine eyes’ due is thy outward part,
 And my heart’s right, thy inward love of heart.