The meaning of Shakespeare’s 39th sonnet
‘O how thy worth with manners may I sing, / When thou art all the better part of me?’ Another exercise in flattery, this, from the Bard: in Sonnet 39 he praises the Fair Youth for being … himself. Or rather, he says that he and the Youth are so close that it feels as if they are one and the same person. These ones and twains require a bit of unpicking and closer analysis – but first, here’s the sonnet.
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.