Sonnets 71–80

Sonnet 71
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O! if,--I say you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
     Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
     And mock you with me after I am gone.

Sonnet 72
O! lest the world should task you to recite
What merit lived in me, that you should love
After my death,--dear love, forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove;
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O! lest your true love may seem false in this
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
     For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
     And so should you, to love things nothing worth.

Sonnet 73
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
     This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
     To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Sonnet 74
But be contented: when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch's knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered,.
     The worth of that is that which it contains,
     And that is this, and this with thee remains.

Sonnet 75
So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found.
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then better'd that the world may see my pleasure:
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight,
Save what is had, or must from you be took.
     Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
     Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

Sonnet 76
Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
     For as the sun is daily new and old,
     So is my love still telling what is told.

Sonnet 77
Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
These vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this book, this learning mayst thou taste.
The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show
Of mouthed graves will give thee memory;
Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
Time's thievish progress to eternity.
Look! what thy memory cannot contain,
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
Those children nursed, deliver'd from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
     These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
     Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book.

Sonnet 78
So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse
As every alien pen hath got my use
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learned's wing
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee:
In others' works thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with thy sweet graces graced be;
     But thou art all my art, and dost advance
     As high as learning, my rude ignorance.

Sonnet 79
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 an other 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 behaviour; 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.

Sonnet 80
O! how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame!
But since your worth--wide as the ocean is,--
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wrack'd, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building, and of goodly pride:
     Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
     The worst was this,--my love was my decay.


  1. Sonnet 80 incorporates a nautical metaphor to further the rival poet theme. The speaker compares himself to a “saucy bark”—a small, frivolous boat—that is subordinate to the stately and grandiose ship of the rival poet. Both ships sail on the “broad main,” or sea, which represents the fair youth—the source of inspiration for both poets’ works. The speaker believes that his love for the fair youth will inspire him to write, just as the sea will keep his small boat afloat. However, the final couplet takes on a darker tone as the speaker describes his personal shipwreck. Metaphorically speaking, the sea which has kept him afloat also destroys him. The fair youth causes the speaker to “decay” by choosing to support the rival poet.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. During the Elizabethan era, the word “numbers” was often used to refer to the metrical pattern of poetic feet. The speaker grapples with the loss of his “Muse,” the fair youth, who has apparently left him for the rival poet. He laments the loss of the fair youth’s “gentle grace,” which has rendered his poetry obsolete and the previously “gracious” meter of his poetry “decay’d.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Sonnet 78 begins the set of sonnets known as the “Rival Poet” sonnets, which span sonnets 78 to 86. These sonnets deal with the speaker’s jealousy towards an unnamed rival poet who vies for the fair youth’s attention. Here, the rival poet is introduced as an “alien pen” who uses the fair youth as inspiration to “mend [his] style.” The poet exposes his jealousy by claiming hold of the fair youth as his one true muse who heightens his “rude ignorance.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In Sonnet 77, one of the final sonnets from the decay and time sequence, the speaker despairs about the deterioration of time, memory, and beauty. Here, he personifies “Time” as a thief who bores on stealthily and incessantly. In the following line, he laments the fallibility of memory to capture human experience. These lines contribute to the sonnet’s theme of the fleeting nature of humanity as time inevitably progresses.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Perhaps in preparation for the “Rival Poet” sequence in sonnets 78-86, the speaker reaffirms his undying and perpetual love for the fair youth. The volta in line nine culminates in a declaration of the speaker’s love for the fair youth, who provides unyielding inspiration for his poetry. Through the final two lines in the sonnet, the speaker metaphorically compares his love for the fair youth to the sun, which seems new each time it emerges and yet is constant in its cycles. The speaker asserts his love, claiming that he will continue to retell his constant love for the fair youth in each new sonnet.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The three commas in this line intentionally slows down the pace of the poem and provides a sharp contrast against the rapid, staccato phrasing of the following line, "which shake against the cold.” The contrast between the two phrases heightens the rhythmic patterning of the second line, which mimics the sounds of barren trees shaking in the cold.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Reflective journaling was a common practice among the nobility in Elizabethan England. In Sonnet 77, the speaker gives the youth a book and encourages him to “commit” his thoughts to “waste blanks”—to write his thoughts down on blank sheets of paper. There is an echo of the procreation sonnets, particularly when the speaker compares the youth’s thoughts to “children.” Rather than encourage the youth to have a child, the speaker tells the youth to write down his thoughts so that the youth might “profit,” or benefit, from them later. The speaker values the ability of words to immortalize a person, so perhaps he is inducing the youth to preserve himself with the journal.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The speaker outlines an internal conflict and sense of restlessness in Sonnet 75, comparing his love for the fair youth to “a miser and his wealth.” He is proud of their relationship but also worries that that the fair youth will be taken from him. The youth gives him joy but he is too afraid of losing the youth’s affection to truly be content. The speaker is also torn between wanting to enjoy the youth’s company in private and wanting to show off his happiness to the world. The final couplet describes the speaker’s inability to be satisfied, since he either overindulges in the fair youth’s company or does not see him at all.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Sonnet 74 is a direct continuation of Sonnet 73. The speaker puts an optimistic spin on his own eventual death, which he ruminates on in Sonnet 73. In opposition to the more self-deprecating language of Sonnets 71 and 72, wherein the speaker encourages the fair youth to forget about him, in Sonnet 74 the speaker reassures the youth that his “spirit” will remain even after his body is gone. Rather than just preserving the youth and beauty of his beloved in writing, the speaker now asserts that his own spirit will be preserved through poetry as well. As long as the fair youth remembers him and reads his poems, his spirit will live on.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. In a continuation of the sentiments of Sonnet 71, the speaker expresses shame at the thought of being remembered fondly after his death. He encourages the fair youth to forget about him when he dies and refrain from glorifying his memory. The speaker’s poetry—that which he “bring[s] forth”—is cast as a source of shame for both the poet and the fair youth. Sonnets 71 and 72 represent another instance of the speaker’s apparent insecurity over his poetic talent surfacing. The inconsistency of the speaker’s tone and attitude throughout the entire sonnet sequence serves to make him a complex and nuanced voice. It also also serves as a reminder that the sonnets may have been compiled without Shakespeare’s consent or input regarding their format or order.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. The sharp and sudden contrast, emphasized by the interjection of “O!” in line nine, alerts the reader to the volta, or turning point, of the sonnet. With this volta, the speaker resolves the sonnet on a more lighthearted note, wishing for the fair youth to find resolve and comfort even after the speaker dies.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. For in-depth look at “Sonnet 73,” read our expert analysis on its own page.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. This line containing three commas intentionally slows down the pace of the poem so that the words "which shake against the cold" in the next line will be more effective in contrast. 

    — William Delaney
  14. Notice the alliteration of the w sounds in this phrase. Perhaps these sounds mimic the diminishing din of metal on metal after the bell tolls, creating an echo following the strong “s” alliteration of the “surly sullen bells.”

    — William Delaney
  15. The assonance of the o sounds in the first four words of the sonnet, in combination with the evocative imagery and consonance in phrases like “surly sullen bell” and “this vile world with vilest worms to dwell,” establish a morose mood as the speaker envisions his own passing.

    — William Delaney
  16. The phrase “for I love you so” is striking in its simplicity. The speaker arrives at this phrase after the morbid imagery about the “vile world with vilest worms,” offering an unexpected turn of hope as the speaker comes to terms with his own death. The “sweet thoughts” in the following line are made all the sweeter against the backdrop of death and decay.

    — William Delaney
  17. In line 4, the speaker emphasizes the vileness of the world and the even greater vileness of the worms in order to prepare for the contrast when he comes to line 7 in which he says:

    That I in thy sweet thoughts would be forgot...

    The contrast with the vileness previously described serves to make the "sweet thoughts" and the person thinking them seem all the sweeter. 


    — William Delaney
  18. The word “vile” has two definitions, referring to both the physical and the intangible. In the former definition, “vile” can characterize something that is physically repulsive; in the latter, it can describe an idea that is morally despicable. The speaker highlights his disgust by coupling the consonance of the scathing v sound with the abhorrence he feels for both the abstract world as well as the physical worms which dwell upon the earth.

    — William Delaney
  19. Each of the three quatrains in this sonnet contains a metaphor for old age. In the first quatrain, the poet compares the point he is at in life to late fall, when the trees are almost totally bare. In the second quatrain, he compares his age to twilight, a time when the sun has set but a little light remains in the sky, with the coming of night representing death. In the third quatrain he compares his age to the glowing remains of a fire being consumed by its own ashes. The closing couplet asserts that the fair youth is better able to love the speaker because the fleeting nature of existence inspires deeper emotional engagement.

    — William Delaney
  20. The phrase “surly sullen” creates a somber tone: the former adjective describes a bad temperament and the latter gloominess. Through assonance, the repetition of the muted u sounds as well as l sounds, these two adjectives appropriately mimic the sounds of a death knell, or the tolling of a bell to signal someone’s death.

    — William Delaney
  21. In many of Shakespeare’s works, night is metaphorically compared to death, perhaps most notably in Hamlet, in which Prince Hamlet asks “for in that sleep of death what dreams may come?”, and in Macbeth, in which Macbeth praises sleep—“the death of each day’s life”—after murdering King Duncan.

    — William Delaney
  22. The consonance of three s sounds in "sweet," "birds," and "sang," helps to create the auditory imagery of birds chirping. The image of songbirds alludes to the joyful and poetically productive past that the speaker nostalgically laments.

    — William Delaney