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O, never say that I was false of heart, O, do not say that I was untrue,
Though absence seem'd my flame to qualify! Though absence from you seemed to make my love less warm!
As easy might I from myself depart I could as easily depart from myself
As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie: As from my soul, which lies in your breast;
That is my home of love: if I have rang'd, That is my love's home: If I have wandered,
Like him that travels I return again, Like a traveller, I return home again,
Just to the time, not with the time exchang'd, I arrive punctual to the time but I do not change with the time,
So that myself bring water for my stain. So that I myself bring water to wash away my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reign'd Never believe, even if in my nature there reigns
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood, Every type of sensuality,
That it could so preposterously be stain'd, That my nature could be so preposterously lustful,
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good; To give up all your goodness;
For nothing this wide universe I call, For I call the whole universe nothing,
Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all. Except you, my rose; in this universe you are my everything.


absence (2): The poet and his young friend have been apart three years. qualify: moderate or soften.

exchang'd (7): Altered.

stain (8): The poet's "stain" is his unfaithfulness to the young man.

We can sense here a confidence and independence in the tone -- a tone found only in a few of the Sonnets. The poet reveals that his feelings toward his friend have cooled during his time away from London, likely during a tour with his acting company, the Chamberlain's Men (around 1594). His confession that in his nature "reign'd/All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood" (9-10), illustrates that his passions have no doubt been aroused by other acquaintances. This becomes even more apparent if we read Sonnet 110, in which the poet admits that his infidelities fulfilled a need to reclaim his youth: "These blenches gave my heart another youth" (7). The theme continues throughout Sonnets 111-120, and the poet uses many terms for the same crime: "stain", "frailties" (109); "offences" (110); "harmful deeds", "infection" (111); "shames" (112); "diseased" (118); "transgression" (120); etc.

Many scholars believe that Shakespeare's relationship with his dear friend (likely the Earl of Southampton ) is more than platonic and few sonnets lend credibility to this argument more so than 109-120. Although the poet freely admits his "stain", he insists that through his errors the love he feels for his "rose" has been strengthened. Sonnet 109 is an apology of sorts, but the poet in no way begs for forgiveness. What we find instead is "tender praise finely contrived, perhaps as a valediction" (Winifred Nowottny. In New Essays on Shakespeare's Sonnets, New York: AMS, 1976, [66]).

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 109. Ed. Amanda Mabillard. Shakespeare Online. 8 Dec. 2012. < >.

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Shakespeare's Greatest Love Poem ... Sonnet 18 is the best known and most well-loved of all 154 sonnets. It is also one of the most straightforward in language and intent. The stability of love and its power to immortalize the poetry and the subject of that poetry is the theme.


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