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O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are
No longer yours than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give.
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination: then you were
Yourself again after yourself's decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day
And barren rage of death's eternal cold?
O, none but unthrifts: -- Dear my love, you know
You had a father; let your son say so.


XIII. Would that Mr. W. H. were truly master of himself, truly his own! But this mastery and possession, as being, like all other men, subject to Death, it is not possible for him to attain. He may, however, live on in his children; and he is advised thus to perpetuate the honour of his house.

1. Yourself. The Quarto of 1609, in accordance with the usage of the time, gives "your selfe" as two words. This allows of an emphasis being thrown on the "your," which seems here required; the sense in all probability being, "O that you were truly your own possession!" Cf. "another self," x. 13; "next self," cxxxiii. 6.

5. Lease. Mr. W. H. is a leaseholder of his comely form, not a freeholder.

6. Determination. In accordance with common legal phraseology.

7. Yourself. Q. has "You selfe."

8. Sweet issue -- sweet form. The employment of "sweet," here and elsewhere in these Sonnets, however much out of harmony with present usage, was in accord with the custom of the times. The same word, for example, is used of the Earl of Pembroke (W. H.) by John Davies of Hereford in his Witte's Pilgrimage: "So so (sweete Lord) so should it bee," &c.

9. So fair a house must be referred to Mr. W. H.'s ancestry, not to the bodily house ("beauteous roof" of x. 7). The words might be very well used of an eldest son and heir, even though he might not be an only son.

10-12. Due care and attention might preserve the house against the storms of winter, the cold blasts of death.

14. You had a father. In accordance with the general drift of this and preceding Sonnets, the meaning must be, not that Mr. W. H.'s father was dead, but that he should do as his father did, that is, beget a son. Cf. especially Merry Wives, Act iii. sc. 4, line 36, where Shallow, urging Slender to woo Anne Page in manly fashion -- to do as his father did -- says, "She's coming, to her, Coz. boy, thou hadst a father," a hint which, however, Slender misunderstands. Cf. also Merchant of Venice, Act ii. sc. 2, lines 17 to 19, where Launcelot says, "My father did something smack, ... he had a kind of taste," though Gobbo is just about to make his appearance. To these passages my attention was directed by the Rev. W. A. Harrison. Cf. Introd., chap. vii. p. 50.

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 Essentials... Shakespeare's sonnets are written predominantly in a meter called iambic pentameter, a rhyme scheme in which each sonnet line consists of ten syllables. The syllables are divided into five pairs called iambs or iambic feet. An iamb is a metrical unit made up of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable. An example of an iamb would be good BYE. Read on....


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