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The other two, slight air and purging fire,
Are both with thee, wherever I abide;
The first my thought, the other my desire,
These present-absent with swift motion slide.
For when these quicker elements are gone
In tender embassy of love to thee,
My life, being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppress'd with melancholy;
Until life's composition be recured
By those swift messengers return'd from thee,
Who even but now come back again, assured
Of thy fair health, recounting it to me:
   This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,
   I send them back again and straight grow sad.


XLV. The poet had spoken of earth and water as entering into his compositions. He had omitted the other elements, air and fire. These constituents of him, the one as thought, the other as desire, are constantly passing to and fro over the separating distance, causing sadness and joy by their departure and return.

1. Purging fire. The purifying influence of the "refiner's fire" is well known. Here, however, the idea would seem to be that of swiftness and impetuosity.

9. Recured. Restored.

12. Thy . Q. "their."

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

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Thoughts on Sonnet 45... "All nature symbolises itself as a whole in the mind's eyes of Shakespeare, the most concrete is to him but the extreme of the most subtile. The world consists of earth, water, air, and fire (that these are but the externals he was doubtless in principle as well aware as modern science). Man consists of flesh, blood, mind and soul. The two last hasten with easy mobility to his genius as tender embassy of love; while he with the others, with his inert body, sinks down to death oppressed with melancholy, till the elements of his life be restored by the return of those swift messengers who assure him of the fair health of his genius, which is busied in creations. No sooner does he hear of this, then he sends them back again; he makes this sacrifice to his highest being, and straight grows sad again." (D. Barnstorff. A key to Shakespeare's sonnets. Translated from the German by T. J. Graham.)


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