William Shakespeare’s sonnet 138 is published in 1599 in a poetry collection entitled “The Passionate Pilgrime”. It reveals the nature of his frustrating relationship with The Dark Lady, emphasizing the effects of his age and his decline in beauty, and the effects on a sexual/romantic relationship.
When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth
Unlearnèd in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue;
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not t' have years told.
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.
In the first quatrain, he says that when his mistress swears that she’s completely truthful and faithful, he believes her, even though he knows that she lies. He chooses to be blind to what he can clearly see so that she’ll think that he is inexperienced, young and naïve of the people’s tricks in the world. So he doesn’t lie to her, only to himself, imagining that she believes him to be an “untutored youth” (without any knowledge of how mature humans behave).
In the second quatrain, he admits that he pretends to believe in her lies while fooling himself into thinking that she believes his young age, even though she knows he is past his prime. Cynically, they both accept the relationship based on mutual deception: he is satisfied by knowing that he is no longer fooled by her charade of fidelity to him, and she is satisfied by how young he presents himself, believing all they hear and tell to each other.
In the third quatrain, the first two lines are identical by construction, similar to how both the poet and his mistress...