Sonnet 79

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Sonnet 79
Detail of old-spelling text
The first two stanzas of Sonnet 79 in the 1609 Quarto
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Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace;
But now my gracious numbers are decay’d,
And my sick Muse doth give another place.
I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen;
Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent
He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.
He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word
From thy behavior; beauty doth he give,
And found it in thy cheek: he can afford
No praise to thee but what in thee doth live.
Then thank him not for that which he doth say,
Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost pay.





—William Shakespeare[1]

Sonnet 79 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is part of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man, and the second sonnet of the Rival Poet subsequence.


When the poet wrote of the youth, his verse partook of his the youth's charms. But now his poetry has weakened another poet has taken his place. This poet takes the beauties and virtues of his verse from the youth and returns them to him in the form of poetry. Therefore, the youth owes him no thanks for his verse, since he has given it its merits.


Sonnet 79 is an English or Shakespearean sonnet. The English sonnet has three quatrains, followed by a final rhyming couplet. It follows the typical rhyme scheme of the form, abab cdcd efef gg and is composed in iambic pentameter, a type of poetic metre based on five pairs of metrically weak/strong syllabic positions. The 2nd line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:

 ×  /    × /    ×  /     ×  /  ×    / 
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace; (79.2)
/ = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.

The sonnet is metrically quite regular; however, the 4th line may be scanned with a rightward movement of the first ictus (the resulting four-position figure, × × / /, is sometimes referred to as a minor ionic):

×    ×  /    /    ×    /   ×  /  ×    / 
And my sick Muse doth give an other place. (79.4)

The meter demands a 2-syllable pronunciation of "worthier" in the 6th line.[2]


  1. ^ Pooler, C[harles] Knox, ed. (1918). The Works of Shakespeare: Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare [1st series]. London: Methuen & Company. OCLC 4770201. 
  2. ^ Booth 2000, p. 273.


First edition and facsimile
Variorum editions
Modern critical editions