William Shakespeare: Sonnet 8

Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?

Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.

Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,

Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?

If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,

By unions married, do offend thine ear,

They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds

In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.

Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,

Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,

Resembling sire and child and happy mother,

Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing;

   Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,

   Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none.”


This sonnet is also a part of Fairy Youth sonnet cycle, in which the poet talks to an imaginary, young figure. The topics of these poems are usually the happiness of youth, the want for a family and the comparison of youth and old age.

In this sonnet the poet uses a comparison between music and youth, and – as in the previous sonnets – he encourages him to get married and have children. The strings of a lute produce one sound together, the family is a branch of people who can co-operate, and work I tandem with one another.

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