Shakespeare Sonnet 38, ORIGINAL TEXT
How can my muse want subject to inventWhile thou dost breathe, that pour’st into my verseThine own sweet argument, too excellentFor every vulgar paper to rehearse?O give thyself the thanks, if aught in meWorthy perusal stand against thy sight.For who’s so dumb that cannot write to thee,When thou thyself dost give invention light?Be thou the tenth muse, ten times more in worthThan those old nine which rhymers invocate;And he that calls on thee, let him bring forthEternal numbers to outlive long date.If my slight muse do please these curious days,The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.
Shakespeare Sonnet 38, Modern Text
Shakespeare Sonnet 38 Analysis
The poet questions how his muse could lack a subject to write about “my muse want subject to invent” when his friend is alive “while thou dost breathe” his friend is his inspiration that pours into his poetry “pour’st into my verse” giving him the sweetest subject to write about “ thine own sweet argument” which is too superior a subject “too excellent” for other sub-standard writers to describe “vulgar paper to rehearse”.
He tells the friend to thank himself “give thy self the thanks”, if his poetry is worth reading “aught in me worthy perusal” because he is the subject of the poems and that only stupid poets “who’s so dumb” will not be able to write about the beauty of his friend “that cannot write to thee” who is the main inspiring spark of creativity “thy self-dost give invention light? “
He says the friend should be the tenth muse “be thou the tenth Muse” (There are nine muses or goddesses of inspiration according to Greek mythology) who is worth more than all of them “ten times more in worth”. Whoever uses his friend for inspiration “he that calls on thee” should write the best poetry that will be remembered for eternity “outlive long date?”
He says that if readers like the poetry he is writing, “my slight muse do please these curious days,” then he will continue doing so and even though the pain is his, “the pain be mine” his friend will receive all the praise “thine shall be the praise”.