O, how thy worth with manners may I sing,

O, how can I praise your worth with modesty,

When thou art all the better part of me?

When you are my better-half?

What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?

What good is praise offered by myself to myself?

And what is 't but mine own when I praise thee?

And what is it but praise for myself when I praise you?

Even for this let us divided live,

Let us then live divided,

And our dear love lose name of single one,

And let people no longer refer to us as being one in the same,

That by this separation I may give

That this by separation I may give you

That due to thee which thou deservest alone.

That due which you alone deserve.

O absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove,

O what a torment your absence would be,

Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave

If you absence did not allow me

To entertain the time with thoughts of love,

To turn my thoughts to love,

Which time and thoughts so sweetly doth deceive,

Those thoughts, which deceive time and my other sad thoughts,

And that thou teachest how to make one twain,

Those thoughts that show me how to make us two again become one,

By praising him here who doth hence remain!

By praising him here who is in fact absent.




Sonnet 39 is about the necessity of separation. The last few lines could cause some confusion; the poet is saying that, although he is separated from his lover, and therefore 'twain' or divided, they are really still one in the same. This can be so because of the sweet thought of love guiding the poet, allowing him to show that his lover is still within his heart and thus joined to him in spirit, no matter where his lover is in body. No one knows for sure the true identity of Shakespeare's dear friend, but most scholars agree that he was the Earl of Southampton, the poet's patron.


Back to Sonnets 31-40