An Analysis Of Leave Me O Love A Sonnet By Sir Philip Sidney By Avi Langer Leave me, O love which reaches but to dust; And thou, my mind aspire to higher things; Grow rich in that which never taketh rust, Whatever fades but fading pleasures brings. Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be; Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light, That doth both shine and give us sight to see. O take fast hold; let that light be thy guide In this small course which birth draws out to death, And think how evil becometh him to slide, Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath. Then farewell world; thy uttermost I see; Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me. The sonnet was born in Provence and matured in Italy in the thirteenth century. Dante and Petrarch were its early masters, and the Petrarchan form of fourteen lines rhyming abba, abba, cde, cde, with variations in the last six lines, became standard.
However, in his sonnet Leave Me O Love, as in most of his work, Sidney does not use the Petrarchan form. He uses, instead, the Shakespearian form of three quatrains rhyming alternately a bab, ending with a rhymed couplet, a variation developed by Wyatt and Surrey. In the sonnet, Leave Me O Love, Sidney begins by writing, Leave me O Love which reach eth but to dust. This can be understood to mean that he is asking for the temporal loves that turn into nothingness and depart from his experiences during the course of his existence. Then in line two, And thou my mind aspire to higher things, through his reference of his aspiration to higher things, he affirms that he doesnt desire fleeting concepts, but, rather, seeks lasting concepts such as knowledge or religion. He then goes on in line three writing, Grow rich in tha which never taketh rust, so we can derive by way of metaphor, that he doesnt seek the material wealth of gold or other valuable metals, but, rather, seeks the eternal values of soul.
He continues with the theme that all temporal pleasures will fade, as all that fades does. We see this in his words Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings. In the first quatrain the message Sidney conveys is very clear. Temporal love, fading pleasures, and material wealth are not worthy of his attentions.
He would rather find a noble and divine pursuit that he will not carry with him to the grave. Sidney begins the second quatrain with Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might/ To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be. To my understanding, Sidney is referring to the love that is temporal, desires for material riches, and temporal pleasures mentioned in the first quatrain, asking that the forces of temporal and material things contract and nullify themselves to the yoke of the soul. With this contraction and nullification, accomplishing anything is possible, as he uses the metaphor of breaking through the clouds and shining, giving us a vision that transcends the temporal world and reveals to us eternity. This can be understood from what Sidney writes in lines seven and eight, Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light, That doth both shine and give us light to see. Sidney begins in the third quatrain by telling us how to achieve our desired goal.
This is seen in the words of line nine O take fast hold; let that light be thy guide. I understood this to tell us we must be strong and steadfast, holding ourselves true to the eternal, and allowing the pursuit of such to be our guide. The time we have in life is a short period in contrast to eternity. From the time of birth, it begins to draw to an end in what can be understood on the surface, in the words of line ten, In this small course which birth draws out to death.
After giving it some thought, the idea came to me that, if each cycle of birth and death were viewed as short courses of a larger cycle of life, one can connect to that what was before him and what will be after him. He can attach himself to eternity by holding strong in his pursuit of the soul. This is seen from what Sidney writes in line eleven And think how evil becometh him to slide. Those that seek connection to the eternal soul must seek the way of heaven and that is through the words of heaven, as Sidney explains in line twelve, Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath.
It seems, after reading line thirteen, Then farewell world; thy uttermost I see; that Sidney is telling us that he has become aware of his own mortality. He is also saying that he has discovered the uttermost finding in the world, and that is the love of G-d and its eternity. Realizing its value, he goes on and asks if he can take this love of God that he has found into his next small course of life and continue on, writing Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me. For Professor Weidhorn.