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.
This sonnet has a timeless quality. The sonnet entreats Men (and Women) in power to be “to temptation slow”.
Consider the decision to go to war. Those who take their time and don’t rush in,they do indeed “inherit heaven’s graces.”
Others rush to war.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had the power to hurt and took it. Nothing they do will ever erase their illegal war in Iraq from our memories. Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the War in Viet Nam overshadowed the good he did. It even overshadowed Civil Rights.
When Presidents and Prime Ministers use their power to hurt, their goodness is lost forever and they become worse than the basest criminal.
“For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.”