Poem Hunter
Sonnet Ix
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616 / Warwickshire)

Sonnet Ix

Poem By William Shakespeare

Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye
That thou consumest thyself in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die.
The world will wail thee, like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep
By children's eyes her husband's shape in mind.
Look, what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused, the user so destroys it.
No love toward others in that bosom sits
That on himself such murderous shame commits.

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Comments (4)

The poet asks if it is fear of making someone a widow that causes the young man to refuse to marry. The argument is unsound, says the poet, for a beautiful youth must leave behind him a form or copy of himself, otherwise the world itself will endure widowhood, and yet have no consolation for its loss. For it will not be able to view the young man resurrected in the eyes of his children. If he persists in this single obduracy, it is an unforgivable shame, showing lack of love to others and equivalent to murdering himself and all his heirs. shakespeares-sonnets.com/
1. Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye, To wet a widow's eye = to cause your future wife to weep for you (if you should die after marrying her) . 2. That thou consum'st thy self in single life? That you waste away in bachelorhood. There is also a sexual meaning in consum'st. See notes to 3.7-8; 4.9 etc.
3. Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die, issueless = childless, without issue, without children. shalt hap to = should happen to. 4. The world will wail thee like a makeless wife; The world will wail thee = the world will mourn for you; like = as if it (the world) were; as if you, (the youth) were; the latter meaning is obviously not so relevant, but the youth, being unmarried, could be perceived as being in the same state as a widow. a makeless wife = a wife without a mate, one who has been widowed. make = companion or mate, spouse (obs.) . The argument therefore is that, if the man does not marry, although he will not leave a widow behind him in the conventional sense, should he die, yet the world will be his widow instead, an even greater tragedy than if he were in fact married and with children. The world will mourn him as a makeless wife mourns her husband. The idea is expanded in the following lines.
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