Sonnet 89

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Sonnet 89
Detail of old-spelling text
The first two lines of Sonnet 89 in the 1609 Quarto
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Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence:
Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,
Against thy reasons making no defence.
Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill,
To set a form upon desired change,
As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,
I will acquaintance strangle and look strange;
Be absent from thy walks; and in my tongue
Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell,
Lest I, too much profane, should do it wrong,
And haply of our old acquaintance tell.
For thee, against myself I’ll vow debate,
For I must ne’er love him whom thou dost hate.





—William Shakespeare[1]

Sonnet 89 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.


The poet tells a youth that he can say he abandoned the poet for some fault and he will admit it. The poet will deliberately absent himself and stop discussing the youth, since he cannot even like himself if the youth no longer cares for him.


Sonnet 89 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 4th line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:

× /       ×  /  ×    / ×    /  × / 
Against thy reasons making no defence. (89.4)
/ = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.

The 1st line exhibits a common metrical variation, the initial reversal:

 /    ×    ×   /     ×  /    ×  /   ×    / 
Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault, (89.1)

This variation is repeated in the 3rd line, and occurs again as a mid-line reversal ("knowing") in line 7.


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


First edition and facsimile
Variorum editions
Modern critical editions