Sonnet 44

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Sonnet 44
Detail of old-spelling text
Sonnet 44 in the 1609 Quarto
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If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then, despite of space, I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth remov’d from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land,
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But, ah, thought kills me, that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan;
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.





—William Shakespeare[1]

Sonnet 44 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 44 is continued in Sonnet 45.


Sonnet 44 is an English or Shakespearean sonnet, which contains three quatrains followed by a final rhyming couplet. It follows the typical rhyme scheme of the form, abab cdcd efef gg and is written in iambic pentameter, a type of poetic metre based on five pairs of metrically weak/strong syllabic positions. The fifth line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:

 ×  /  ×    /  ×   /     ×  /    ×    / 
No matter then although my foot did stand (44.5)
/ = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.

The sonnet is quite regular metrically (for example, a three-syllable "injurious" maintains regularity in line two), but implements a few variations, for example in the first and last lines:

 ×   ×  /    /   ×    /   ×   /    ×     / 
If the dull substance of my flesh were thought, (44.1)

 ×   /  ×  /      /  ×  ×  /   ×     / 
But heavy tears, badges of either's woe. (44.14)

...which contain, respectively, a rightward movement of the first ictus (resulting in a four-position figure, × × / /, sometimes referred to as a minor ionic), and a mid-line reversal ("badges").


Critics have mentioned Sonnet 44 is directly coupled to Sonnet 45 and lacks a definite conclusion.[2]

In Music[edit]

Poeterra recorded a pop ballad version of Sonnet 44 on their album "When in Disgrace" (2014).


  1. ^ Pooler, C[harles] Knox, ed. (1918). The Works of Shakespeare: Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare [1st series]. London: Methuen & Company. OCLC 4770201. 
  2. ^ Fineman, Joel (1986). Shakespeare's Perjured Eye: The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets. Univ of California Press. pp. 227–229. ISBN 0520054865. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

First edition and facsimile
Variorum editions
Modern critical editions

External links[edit]