Sonnet 39

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Sonnet 39
Sonnet 39 in the 1609 Quarto.

O! how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?
And what is't but mine own when I praise thee?
Even for this, let us divided live,
And our dear love lose name of single one,
That by this separation I may give
That due to thee which thou deserv'st alone.
O absence! what a torment wouldst thou prove,
Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave,
To entertain the time with thoughts of love,
Which time and thoughts so sweetly doth deceive,
And that thou teachest how to make one twain,
By praising him here who doth hence remain.

–William Shakespeare

Sonnet 39 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man.


Sonnet 39 is a typical English or Shakespearean sonnet, constructed from three quatrains and a final rhyming couplet for a total of fourteen lines. It follows the form's rhyme scheme, abab cdcd efef gg. Like many of the other poems in the sequence, Sonnet 39 is written in iambic pentameter, a type of poetic metre in which a line is constructed from five pairs of unstressed/stressed syllables.

Iambic pentameter of line four from Sonnet 39
Stress x / x / x / x / x /
Syllable And what is't but mine own when I praise thee?


Sonnet 39 is about the necessity of separation. The last few lines could cause some confusion; the poet is saying that, although he is separated from his lover, and therefore 'twain' or divided, they are really still the same. This can be so because of the sweet thought of love guiding the poet, allowing him to show that his lover is still within his heart and thus joined to him in spirit, no matter where his lover is in body. No one knows for sure the true identity of Shakespeare's dear friend, but most scholars agree that he was the Earl of Southampton, the poet's patron.

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