Shakespeare Sonnet 80 Analysis, O how I faint when I of you do write

Shakespeare Sonnet 80 Modern Text

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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 80. 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 80 (Original Text)

O how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.
But since your worth, wide as the ocean is,
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth willfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wracked, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building and of goodly pride.
Then, if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this: my love was my decay.
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Shakespeare Sonnet 80 Modern Text (Translation)

Shakespeare sonnet 80 theme, analysis and translation

Shakespeare Sonnet 80, Analysis

The poet says that he is always discouraged “O how I faint” when he writes about the fair lord “when I of you do write” especially because of the knowledge that another poet is also writing about the youth. ‘Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,” He says the other poet uses all of his might to praise the youth “And in the praise thereof spends all his might,” Which makes him tongue-tied (writers block) when writing about the youth’s fame. “To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.”

He says that the value of the fair youth “But since your worth” is as wide as the ocean “wide as the ocean” is that is able to support even the smallest boat or a large ship, “The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,” the poets skill compared to a little boat is inferior to the other poet “My saucy bark, inferior far to his” yet keeps on appearing intentionally out of stubbornness “On your broad main doth willfully appear.”

The poet comparing inspiration to waters says even shallow waters is enough to keep his boat afloat meaning that just a little inspiration is enough for him to write “Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,”

while the other poet is more ambitious sailing to deep areas (ie writing more ambitiously about the fair youth) “Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride” and while his boat or words are small and unimpressive, “Or, being wracked, I am a worthless boat,” the other poets words are far more worthy than his which he compares to a larger ship “He of tall building and of goodly pride.”

He ends by saying if because of this condition the other poet thrives and he is cast away “Then, if he thrive and I be cast away,” or discarded, then it was because of his love of the fair youth that he has decayed and lost. “The worst was this: my love was my decay”

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