Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O, but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profaned their scarlet ornaments
And seal’d false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents.
Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lovest those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.
If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied!
This sonnet continues to develop the traditional idea that was introduced in the concluding line of the previous one, That she that makes me sin awards me pain.
The theme of the sonnet is that his mistress should replace the hatred that she shows towards him by pity, a word which traditionally covered a whole range of actions and emotions, from sympathy, to a mere friendly glance, a disposition to tolerate or listen to the lover, or the allowing of a kiss, or (rarely) sexual intercourse. Here the poet makes it clear that it is the latter which is preferable, and he deliberately swerves aside from the Petrarchan tradition by accusing both her and himself of frequent adulteries, and pleading that he has as much right to her body as those other men whom she seems always to prefer to him. But, he concludes, if she shows pity for him, it will stand her in good stead for the future, when she herself might need to be pitied and have her sexual desires gratified.
A sonnet by Barnabe Barnes, c. 1593, which seems to harp in a similar way on Pity and Virtue. Followed by part of Sonnet 7 from Coelia, by William Percy, 1594.
ASCLEPIAD O Sweet, pitiless eye, beautiful orient
(Since my faith is a rock durable everywhere),
Smile! and shine with a glance heartily me to joy!
Beauty taketh a place! Pity regards it not!
Virtue findeth a throne, settled in every part!
Pity found none at all, banished everywhere!
Since then, Beauty triumphs, (Chastity’s enemy),
And Virtue cleped is, much to be pitiful;
And since that thy delight is ever virtuous:
My tears, Parthenophe, pity! Be pitiful!
So shall men Thee repute, as a holy Saint!
So shall Beauty remain, mightily glorified!
So thy fame shall abound, durably chronicled!
Then sweet Parthenophe! Pity! Be merciful!
Barnes, P & P, Ode 20.
If it be sin so dearly for to love thee,
Come bind my hands, I am thy prisoner!
If yet a spark of pity may but move thee,
First sit upon the cause, Commissioner!
Dearest Cruel, the cause I see dislikes thee!
On us thy brows thou bends so direfully!
Enjoin me penance whatsoever likes thee;
Whate’er it be I’ll take it thankfully!
Percy, Coelia 7.