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O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends,
For thy neglect of truth in beauty dy'd?
Both truth and beauty on my love depends;
So dost thou too, and therein dignify'd.
Make answer, Muse: wilt thou not haply say,
'Truth needs no colour, with his colour fix'd;
Beauty no pencil, beauty's truth to lay;
But best is best, if never intermix'd?'
Because he needs no praise, wilt thou be dumb?
Excuse not silence so; for't lies in thee
To make him much outlive a gilded tomb,
And to be prais'd of ages yet to be.
   Then do thy office, Muse; I teach thee how
   To make him seem long hence as he shows now.


CI. The Muse is rebuked for neglecting the poet's friend. But the answer is suggested that the friend needs no eulogy. Truth expresses herself in the colour of his countenance, and true beauty requires no pictorial embellishment. Description and adornment would vitiate and adulterate what is pre-eminently excellent. Still, the Muse must not decline the suggested task; for it is her privilege to confer long-enduring renown.

3. Mr. W. H. is the embodiment of both truth and beauty: he is the standard of both.

4. And therein dignify'd. And therein thou (my Muse) art dignified.

6. With his colour fix'd. His colour is the embodiment of truth.

7. Beauty speaks for itself, requiring the aid of no pencil to prove by painting the fact of its existence.

8. External praise or embellishment will be injurious.

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2013. < >.

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Sonnet Basics ... A sonnet is in verse form and has fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. Shakespeare's sonnets follow the pattern "abab cdcd efef gg", and Petrarch's sonnets follow the pattern "abba abba cdecde." All the lines in iambic pentameter have five feet, consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. For a more detailed look at iambic pentameter with examples, please click here.


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