“Sonnet 39: O, how thy worth with manners may I sing” by William Shakespeare

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 dost deceive,
And that thou teachest how to make one twain
By praising him here who doth hence remain!

This seems to me a poignant poem considering what we are all dealing with in regard to the COVID pandemic. In this sonnet, Shakespeare expresses the pain of being separated from someone he deeply loves, loves to the point where they are as one when together. And yet, he acknowledges that it is only because of the separation that he is able to compose poetry praising his beloved, for then they are together, they are one and Shakespeare would not be able to differentiate himself from his love.

In the same way Shakespeare was reaching out to his beloved from a distance through poetry, we are also reaching out to those we love in creative ways, via Zoom, social distance outdoor gatherings, and yes, some of us have even gone back to writing letters.

There is an old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder. There is truth here. Not being able to spend time with those I love makes me painfully aware of the love I feel for those people. But at least it seems the end of this isolation is drawing near. We just need to hang on a little bit longer.

I hope this poem provides you with some light in the remainder of these dark days. Many blessings to you and your dear ones.

8 Comments

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8 responses to ““Sonnet 39: O, how thy worth with manners may I sing” by William Shakespeare

  1. Once again thanks for taking a Shakesphere poem and simplifying it for folk’s like me. It’s true as you said about how this poem rings about Covid meaning isolation. Stay safe friend

  2. Yes, the poem is lovely and timely, Jeff. My sister and I had planned to go to visit my niece for Christmas, but have just today decided to cancel the trip. It’s hard to be separated from family, but it’s the smart thing to do. Hopefully there’ll be a vaccine soon!
    Debra

    • You made the right choice, Debra. I miss my kids so much, but I can wait another couple months before visiting. Stay safe, and thanks for stopping by

  3. Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:
    Interesting Sonnet and separated from another interestingly at 37 on a similar theme. Patterson mentions the restless quality of the final sestet.

    • Thank you for the reblog and for pointing out the relationship with 37. Yes, there is a sense of restlessness which I believe is the source of the creative urge. As always, thanks for your keen insights. Cheers.

  4. Thank you, Jeff. I like how you relate this sonnet to the pandemic. I believe that deep reflection and creativity come from turmoil or deprivation. Things are getting worse here on the East Coast although I’m still hopeful we will dig out of this. Hope you and your family are well. We are all healthy.

    • “I believe that deep reflection and creativity come from turmoil or deprivation.” Very well put, Barb, and I completely agree. Glad to hear you and your family are well. We are all safe and healthy too, thankfully. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.