Sonnets 31–40

Sonnet 31
Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love's loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol'n from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things remov'd that hidden in thee lie!
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give,
That due of many now is thine alone:
     Their images I lov'd, I view in thee,
     And thou—all they—hast all the all of me.

Sonnet 32
If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett'ring of the time,
And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
'Had my friend's Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
     But since he died and poets better prove,
     Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love'.

Sonnet 33
Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out! alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.
     Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
     Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.

Sonnet 34
Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence's cross.
     Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
     And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.

Sonnet 35
No more be griev'd at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud:
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,--
Thy adverse party is thy advocate,--
And 'gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
     That I an accessary needs must be,
     To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Sonnet 36
Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one:
So shall those blots that do with me remain,
Without thy help, by me be borne alone.
In our two loves there is but one respect,
Though in our lives a separable spite,
Which though it alter not love's sole effect,
Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love's delight.
I may not evermore acknowledge thee,
Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,
Nor thou with public kindness honour me,
Unless thou take that honour from thy name:
     But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
     As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.

Sonnet 37
As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune's dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth;
For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts, do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted, to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis'd,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am suffic'd,
And by a part of all thy glory live.
     Look what is best, that best I wish in thee:
     This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

Sonnet 38

How can my muse want subject to invent,
While thou dost breathe, that pour'st into my verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse?
O! give thy self the thanks, if aught in me
Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;
For who's so dumb that cannot write to thee,
When thou thy self dost give invention light?
Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;
And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
Eternal numbers to outlive long date.
     If my slight muse do please these curious days,
     The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.

Sonnet 39
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.

Sonnet 40
Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all;
What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?
No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call;
All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more.
Then, if for my love, thou my love receivest,
I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest;
But yet be blam'd, if thou thy self deceivest
By wilful taste of what thyself refusest.
I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief,
Although thou steal thee all my poverty:
And yet, love knows it is a greater grief
To bear greater wrong, than hate's known injury.
     Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,
     Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes.


  1. The word “lascivious” means lustful, while the word “grace” refers to refinement and elegance. The combination of words “lascivious grace” creates an oxymoron: it can mean both lustful grace as well as refined sensuality. This oxymoron captures the speaker’s conundrum as he decides whether or not to return to his beloved despite the fair youth’s faults.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Sonnet 40 repeats the word, or variants of the word, “love” more than any other sonnet. By repeating the word “love” nine times, the speaker expresses his concerted, even obsessive, effort to regain his distant beloved after their separation in Sonnet 39.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The volta, which begins here at line nine, demonstrates the main theme of sonnet 39. Following the fair youth’s mistake, the speaker decides it is in both his and the fair youth’s best interests to separate. The volta demonstrates the dual nature of such a decision: the speaker is both tormented with the prospect of separating but knows that it is the right decision. The combination of the words “sour” and “sweet” in the following line, as in sonnet 35, highlight this dichotomy.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. The nine muses of Greek mythology were goddesses believed to provide inspiration for artists, writers, and poets. Here, the speaker takes this allusion and inverts it by denouncing the nine muses and praising a hypothetical tenth, whom he likens to his beloved. Notice how the speaker places this allusion on lines nine and ten: line nine mentions the tenth Muse, while line ten dismisses the previous nine. By including this allusion, the speaker makes clear that his love for the fair youth transcends traditional, classical notions; instead, it is “eternal” and original.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The verb “to engraft” refers to joining plant tissues to promote growth. In a figurative sense, engrafting describes the process of implanting a notion or idea into another’s mind. In this context, the fair youth engrafts or shares his “store” of positive qualities with the speaker. The speaker, in turn, is made whole by his connection to the fair youth.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Through coordinating conjunctions like “although,” “though,” “yet,” “lest,” “nor,” “unless,” and “but,” the speaker demonstrates his hesitancy and uncertainty following the fair youth’s error. The speaker, unsure whether to be “one” or “twain” with the fair youth, peppers his diction with tentative language, revealing his inability to reach a concrete resolution.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. In Sonnet 35, the speaker explains the misdeed the fair youth has commited, first mentioned in sonnet 33 at the start of the “estrangement sonnets.” Unlike the preceding sonnets, here the speaker takes on a more respectful and forgiving tone. Through nature-based imagery, the speaker says that human error is as natural as roses with thorns or trees with canker—a type of fungal disease that damages bark. He claims that since the fault has already been made, there is nothing he or the fair youth can do.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. As in Sonnet 33, the speaker employs imagery of storm clouds blemishing the “beauteous” day to mirror how the fair youth’s fault has cast clouds over their relationship. Although the fair youth repents, the speaker continues to shed tears “of pearl.” Pearls often represent wisdom gained through experience. Here they symbolize a penance for the fair youth’s sin. The speaker believes that although the fair youth has caused him pain, that pain is “ransom[ed],” or redeemed, by the youth’s tears.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Highlighted with the exclamation “O!”, line 9 marks the sonnet’s volta. As he morosely contemplates death and the loss of physical love between himself and the fair youth, the speaker prays that their love might survive through his poetry in an abstract sense. However, the inclusion of a quote in the following lines and the choice to use the word “vouchsafe”—which means to grant, either in a grateful or a condescending way—demonstrate irony in the speaker’s words. The speaker claims that others might write more stylish poetry, but that his should be appreciated for his honest words of love. Most modern readers will likely recognize the speaker’s self-deprecation as irony: after all, the sonnets demonstrate a high degree of literary and stylistic competency.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The word “churl” refers to a rustic, ill-mannered man. By personifying “Death” as a “churl,” the speaker demonstrates his disdain towards death for inevitably destroying the love between himself and the fair youth. He envisions himself dying before the fair youth, but hopes that through his poetry, their love will survive.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. This sonnet suggests that through the fair youth, the speaker can harness all the love of his own past lovers. The fair youth’s bosom, “endeared with all hearts,” contains all of the love the speaker has previously experienced. This sentiment is finalized in line 14 when the speaker repeats the word “all” to demonstrate the circuitness and all-encompassing nature of love, which he envisions lies in the fair youth, himself, and all his past lovers.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Throughout this sonnet, the speaker employs a conceit, or extended metaphor, by comparing the fair youth to the sun. Sonnets 33 through 36 are traditionally called the “estrangement” sonnets, for in them the speaker confronts a fault the fair youth has committed. In this sonnet’s conceit, the sun still shines despite the fair youth’s alleged actions, suggesting the possibility of absolution.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Through the poem’s conceit, the speaker states that, like the sun which may be “stain’d” or tainted by clouds, so too may the fair youth’s illustriousness become darkened by sorrow and affliction.

    — William Delaney
  14. The verb “gilding” describes the process of overlaying an object with a thin covering of gold. The word “alchemy” refers to the medieval speculative science that aimed to transmute base metals like lead into gold. The metaphor in this line, which employs both of these terms, suggests that the sun has tainted the “pale streams” with a golden hue, in turn indicating the natural beauty of the morning scene.

    — William Delaney