Welcome to Poetry.com

Poetry.com is a huge collection of poems from famous and amateur poets from around the world — collaboratively published by a community of authors and contributing editors.

Navigate through our poetry database by subjects, alphabetically or simply search by keywords. You can submit a new poem, discuss and rate existing work, listen to poems using voice pronunciation and even translate pieces to many common and not-so-common languages.

Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)

A Lover's Complaint

William Shakespeare 1564 (Stratford-upon-Avon) – 1616 (Stratford-upon-Avon)

FROM off a hill whose concave womb reworded
  A plaintful story from a sistering vale,
  My spirits to attend this double voice accorded,
  And down I laid to list the sad-tuned tale;
  Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale,
  Tearing of papers, breaking rings a-twain,
  Storming her world with sorrow's wind and rain.

  Upon her head a platted hive of straw,
  Which fortified her visage from the sun,
  Whereon the thought might think sometime it saw
  The carcass of beauty spent and done:
  Time had not scythed all that youth begun,
  Nor youth all quit; but, spite of heaven's fell rage,
  Some beauty peep'd through lattice of sear'd age.

  Oft did she heave her napkin to her eyne,
  Which on it had conceited characters,
  Laundering the silken figures in the brine
  That season'd woe had pelleted in tears,
  And often reading what contents it bears;
  As often shrieking undistinguish'd woe,
  In clamours of all size, both high and low.

  Sometimes her levell'd eyes their carriage ride,
  As they did battery to the spheres intend;
  Sometime diverted their poor balls are tied
  To the orbed earth; sometimes they do extend
  Their view right on; anon their gazes lend
  To every place at once, and, nowhere fix'd,
  The mind and sight distractedly commix'd.

  Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat,
  Proclaim'd in her a careless hand of pride
  For some, untuck'd, descended her sheaved hat,
  Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside;
  Some in her threaden fillet still did bide,
  And true to bondage would not break from thence,
  Though slackly braided in loose negligence.

  A thousand favours from a maund she drew
  Of amber, crystal, and of beaded jet,
  Which one by one she in a river threw,
  Upon whose weeping margent she was set;
  Like usury, applying wet to wet,
  Or monarch's hands that let not bounty fall
  Where want cries some, but where excess begs all.

  Of folded schedules had she many a one,
  Which she perused, sigh'd, tore, and gave the flood;
  Crack'd many a ring of posied gold and bone
  Bidding them find their sepulchres in mud;
  Found yet moe letters sadly penn'd in blood,
  With sleided silk feat and affectedly
  Enswathed, and seal'd to curious secrecy.

  These often bathed she in her fluxive eyes,
  And often kiss'd, and often 'gan to tear:
  Cried 'O false blood, thou register of lies,
  What unapproved witness dost thou bear!
  Ink would have seem'd more black and damned here!'
  This said, in top of rage the lines she rents,
  Big discontent so breaking their contents.

  A reverend man that grazed his cattle nigh--
  Sometime a blusterer, that the ruffle knew
  Of court, of city, and had let go by
  The swiftest hours, observed as they flew--
  Towards this afflicted fancy fastly drew,
  And, privileged by age, desires to know
  In brief the grounds and motives of her woe.

  So slides he down upon his grained bat,
  And comely-distant sits he by her side;
  When he again desires her, being sat,
  Her grievance with his hearing to divide:
  If that from him there may be aught applied
  Which may her suffering ecstasy assuage,
  'Tis promised in the charity of age.

  'Father,' she says, 'though in me you behold
  The injury of many a blasting hour,
  Let it not tell your judgment I am old;
  Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power:
  I might as yet have been a spreading flower,
  Fresh to myself, If I had self-applied
  Love to myself and to no love beside.

  'But, woe is me! too early I attended
  A youthful suit--it was to gain my grace--
  Of one by nature's outwards so commended,
  That maidens' eyes stuck over all his face:
  Love lack'd a dwelling, and made him her place;
  And when in his fair parts she did abide,
  She was new lodged and newly deified.

  'His browny locks did hang in crooked curls;
  And every light occasion of the wind
  Upon his lips their silken parcels hurls.
  What's sweet to do, to do will aptly find:
  Each eye that saw him did enchant the mind,
  For on his visage was in little drawn
  What largeness thinks in Paradise was sawn.

  'Small show of man was yet upon his chin;
  His phoenix down began but to appear
  Like unshorn velvet on th
Font size:
Collection  Edit     

Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:42 min read

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". more…

All William Shakespeare poems | William Shakespeare Books

FAVORITE (10 fans)

Discuss this William Shakespeare poem with the community:



    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)


    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:


    "A Lover's Complaint" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 25 Jul 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41360/a-lover's-complaint>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    Browse Poetry.com


    Are you a poetry master?

    A poem that has no rhyme is called ________.
    • A. free verse
    • B. a ballad
    • C. a limerick
    • D. a song

    Our favorite collection of

    Famous Poets