the tears virtue sore beset doth shed

Alireza R

New Member
I'm reading Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised (by marquis de Sade, Wainhouse's translation), and I have a great difficulty understanding the structure of this sentence: "the tears virtue sore beset doth shed". Here's the complete sentence: "Thou art she to whom I confide my book, which will acquaint thee with the sweetness of the tears Virtue sore beset doth shed and doth cause to flow."
I'm totally confused. So far, this is what I've come to:
" [...] with the sweetness of the tears which virtue severely holds on [from shedding], [but exactly because of trying to do so, at the end,] it [actually] sheds and causes to flow."
Well, how do you define this: "the tears virtue sore beset doth shed"
Last edited:
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I read it as the tears that Virtue sheds (cries) when Virtue is so sorely (seriously) assailed from so many directions.


    Senior Member
    If somebody's virtue is attacked by something, we can say that it is "sore beset". This virtue that is under attack (or sore beset) sheds tears. "Doth" is an old form for "does".

    You are going to find a lot of puzzling, old-fashioned English in that book. Even native English-speakers can have difficulty understanding translations of eighteenth-century French. As I recall, Wainhouse took pains to render that text into eighteenth-century English. His effort looked pretty authentic to me, and it is easy to imagine that it was written in the eighteenth century.

    Cross-posted with a cat I know.