Lillies that fester

Maybe it is because today is Valentine's day, but this morning, while reading Christopher Hitchens' "There is something wrong about the Ohio election" in this month's Vanity Fair, my favourite Shakespeare sonnet (XCIV) popped into consciosuness. I didn't think it would be possible to be disenchanted with democracy in the same way as one can be with love....

"They that have power to hurt, and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,
And husband nature's riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others, but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself, it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds".

William Shakespeare


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