Yes, its Shakespeare – sonnet number 36 in fact. What better place to kick off this blog than the master of the English language himself. It’s a pity that more people know the plays than the poetry, as most of the poems, particularly the sonnets, are short, accessible at any time, but just as rich in language and ideas as those famous speeches from Hamlet or Macbeth or Othello.
Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one:
So shall those blots that do with me remain,
Without thy help, by me be borne alone.
In our two loves there is but one respect,
Though in our lives a separable spite,
Which though it alter not love’s sole effect,
Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love’s delight.
I may not evermore acknowledge thee,
Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,
Nor thou with public kindness honour me,
Unless thou take that honour from thy name:
But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.
So the poem appeals to me by going beyond notions of romantic love being some idyllic state of perfection; instead, it is about love tempered by experience. Shakespeare reminds us that, even in a loving relationship, we are essentially alone and must be totally responsible for our own qualities and defects, behaviour and reputation. Otherwise we would be tainted by the other’s blots or faults. This is the real world, not some idealised utopia. However, at the end of the poem there is a reaffirmation that love is possible and can be strong.
The language is focussed, every word is telling. The first half of the sonnet cleverly opposes the notions of two and one. The second half homes in on the one before coming back to the two at the end. As in the play “A Winters Tale” despair can mutate into resolution and optimism, made stronger by self-awareness.
This poem can connect to anyone’s life who is in a long-term relationship. Remember, Shakespeare said it first (and most likely better)
The Poetry Dude