‘Sonnet 75,’ also known as ‘So are you to my thoughts as food to life,’ is number seventy-four of one hundred fifty-four sonnets that the Bard wrote over his lifetime. This particular sonnet and those which are numbered 1-126 belong to Shakespeare’s famous Fair Youth sequence.
These poems are devoted to a young, beautiful man whose identity remains unknown to this day. There has been a great deal of speculation about who this young man could possibly be, but no single identity has ever been decided upon.
Sonnet 75 William Shakespeare So are you to my thoughts as food to life, Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground; And for the peace of you I hold such strife As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found. Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure; Now counting best to be with you alone, Then better'd that the world may see my pleasure: Sometime all full with feasting on your sight, And by and by clean starved for a look; Possessing or pursuing no delight Save what is had, or must from you be took. Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day, Or gluttoning on all, or all away.
Throughout this poem, the speaker describes for the youth how he sees their relationship. The speaker is greedy for the youth, like a miser. At one moment he’s confident and happy in his wealth and at another, he’s desperate for more, unwilling to let a penny out of his sight. Shakespeare concludes the poem by adding that this is made all the worse by the fact that the love they share is his only source of happiness.
‘Sonnet 75’ by William Shakespeare is a single stanza poem that is made up of fourteen lines. It is a good example of the English or Shakespearean sonnet (sometimes also known as the Elizabethan). This form requires that the sonnet be made up of three quatrains, or sets of four lines, and one concluding couplet or set of two rhyming lines. The poem follows a consistent rhyme scheme that conforms to the pattern of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG and it is written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter means that each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed and the second is stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM.
The last two lines (known as a couplet) are a rhyming pair. They often, but not always, bring with them a turn or “volta” (in Italian) in the poem. They’re sometimes used to answer a question posed in the previous twelve lines, shift the perspective, or even change speakers.
Poetic Techniques in Sonnet 75
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 75’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, sibilance, simile, and enjambment. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “Possessing or pursuing” in line ten. Sibilance is similar to alliteration but it is concerned with soft vowel sounds such as “s” and “th”. This kind of repetition usually results in a prolonged hissing or rushing sound. It is often used to mimic another sound, like water, wind, or any kind of fluid movement. For example, “sweet seasoned show’rs” in line two.
A simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”. A poet uses this kind of figurative language to say that one thing is similar to another, not like metaphor, that it “is” another. There is a good example in the first quatrain when the speaker begins a comparison between himself and a miser.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For instance, the transition between lines three and four as well as between five and six.
So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet seasoned show’rs are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As ’twixt a miser and his wealth is found;
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 75,’ the speaker tells the Fair Youth, who has continually exposed his admiration for and devotion to, that he needs the young man. His need is compared to the way that living things need food to survive. The second line adds on another simile that his need is the same as the grass’s need for rain. In the next lines, he adds that peace is not something that comes easy to him. He sees himself as a miser, someone who hoards money and worries over it constantly.
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure;
In the second quatrain, he goes on to say that as a “miser” he is constantly moving between the worry that someone is going to “steal his treasure” and the general enjoyment of it. One moment he is proud of what has (the youth) and the next he is making himself miserable over it. The “filching age,” or someone from the thieving times that the speaker lives in, is going to take what’s his.
From moment to moment the speaker goes between thinking that it’s better that he loves the youth alone to thinking that it would be “better” if the “world” could see his “pleasure”. Perhaps this could put things into perspective, make him feel more confident, or less greedy.
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight
And by and by clean starvèd for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight,
Save what is had or must from you be took.
Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.
In the final quatrain of ‘Sonnet 75,’ the speaker says that there are moments when he feels too full from “feasting” on the youth’s sight. He is briefly overly sated and then he is starved for the sight of the youth. This is made even worse by the fact that the youth is the only source that he’s able to take pleasure.
The poem concludes with two lines that inform the young man that the speaker is suffering due to this back and forth. He’s unable to stabilize himself when he’s hungry one moment and too full the next.