This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 51. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis. It is highly recommended to buy “The Monument” by Hank Whittemore, which is the best book on Shakespeare Sonnets.
Shakespeare Sonnet 51 (Original Text)
Thus can my love excuse the slow offenseOf my dull bearer, when from thee I speed:From where thou art, why should I haste me thence?Till I return, of posting is no need.O what excuse will my poor beast then find,When swift extremity can seem but slow?Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind;In wingèd speed no motion shall I know:Then can no horse with my desire keep pace;Therefore desire, of perfect’st love being made,Shall neigh no dull flesh in his fiery race,But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade:Since from thee going he went wilful slow,Towards thee I’ll run, and give him leave to go.
Shakespeare Sonnet 51 Modern Text (Translation)
Shakespeare Sonnet 51 Analysis
In continuation from sonnet 50, the poet says his love excuses “Thus can my love excuse” the slow-moving horse “slow offence of my dull bearer” even as he rides away from his friend “from thee I speed” and from wherever his friend is, “From where thou art” why should he travel with speed” why should I haste that takes him farther away because until he returns there is no need for rushing “Till I return, of posting is no need”
He asks if he travels fast then what excuse will his horse have for travelling slowly “excuse will my poor beast then find,” and regardless of how swift the horse goes, the poet still feels the journey slow and painful “swift extremity can seem but slow?” and even if he spurred his horse to ride like the wind, “should I spur”, though mounted on the wind; he would still not feel it “no motion shall I know: “
There is no horse that can keep up with the poets desire can “no horse with my desire keep pace” that is made up of perfect love “of perfect’st love” being made that wishes to race towards his friend just like a horse made of fire instead of a horse made from flesh and blood “no dull flesh, in his fiery race;”
Out of love he will excuse his horse that intentionally went slow “But love, for love” as he was leaving his friend “from thee going he went wilful slow,” and that he would rather run to his friend on foot and let the horse go instead “Towards thee I’ll run, and give him leave to go.”