Final Project

For my final project, I chose to analyze a poem written by Sir Philip Sidney titled “Leave me, O’ Love, which reachest but to dust.” This poem was part of one of Sidney’s collections titled “Certain Sonnets” that he wrote in the 1570s into the 1580s. It is noted that Sidney’s poems were not publicized until after his death which makes them much more fascinating. He did not have an audience but rather wrote for the pleasure of it and now his works are published in books and studied in classes. The specific collection “Certain Sonnets” is considered by critics to be Sidney’s earlier works and the start of his experimentation and growth that lead him to his later works.

My analysis can be found below. The text in bold is Sir Philip Sidney’s original text. The text written under that is the dissection of the specific words and the text in italics is the summary of the meaning of the line. With my original analysis, I attempted to not consult any outside sources other than to look up old English words or religious symbolism.

Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust;\

Leave me, O love, which 

reachest(verb) second-person singular simple present form of reach

but to

Dust symbolizes “nothing” or literally the absence of what was once there. This is seen in phrases such as “left me in the dust” or if something “turned to dust”. 

This line states that love has left . Love in one’s eyes has reached the point of nothing.

And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;


Thou– you

my mind, aspire to

higher things – more knowledge, wealth

One talks to themself in this line, or rather their mind. He acknowledges his craving for “higher things”, possibly things like knowledge and wealth.

Grow rich in that which never taketh rust;

Grow rich – attain wealth

In that which– in what 

Never taketh rust – doesn’t age, doesn’t wither with time, to rust means to sit and decrease in value as it becomes wethered

One wants to attain higher value in life from things that ”never taketh rust”. He is not materialistic and gains wealth through the “higher things” mentioned previously. 

Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings.

Whatever fades but 

Fading pleasure brings – the dwindling or dissolving of certain things brings joy

Things may fade but if they do, they were probably not that essential in the long run. 

Draw in thy beams and humble all thy might

Draw in 

Thy – your 

beams– religious symbolism, light

And humble– give less importance to 

all thy might– your power, authority, intensity of which one is capable of 

Center yourself, focus on your values and beliefs. Give less importance to your power, social stance, materialism.

To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be;

To that sweet yoke where 

lasting freedoms be– true happiness, the lasting feeling of freedom

“That sweet yolk” symbolizes the feeling of happiness and eternal freedom. This is the end goal which can be attained by the actions from the previous line.

Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light,

Which– referring back to the last line

breaks the clouds– clears cloudiness, gets rid of factors in the way of desired goals, rids of confusion, clouds often symbolize blurriness, uncertainty, and blockage so to break them means to break through these obstacles

and opens forth– brings out from hiding 

The light– religion & God

Humbleness, self centering, and focusing on self needs that will bring enrichment to the mind will “break the clouds” or clear one’s clouded mind.

That doth both shine and give us sight to see.


doth – does

both shine– gives actual sunlight

And give us light to see– clarity, both literally and metaphorically, religious guidance 

A clear mind both gives one a clear head in general but also clarifies the values, goals, self, religion, and higher value previously mentioned. It makes these goals easier to obtain.

O take fast hold; let that light be thy guide

O take fast hold– hurry up and hold on tight

Let that light be thy guide– find religion and clarity, let it be your guide

The transition of mental clarity and clear life goals is happening quickly. Let religion and this clarity guide your life.

In this small course which birth draws out to death,

In this small course– small amount of time

Which birth draws out to death– a life span

Life is short for humans in the grand scheme of things. 

And think how evil becometh him to slide,

And think how

evil becometh– evil or sin comes upon someone


to slide– slide could mean losing grip, in this case in terms of religion, slip could mean to sin, to lose faith

One may slip into thinking about straying from their beliefs and ultimate goals. They may think how “evil” or sin could overcome them.

Who seeketh heav’n, and comes of heav’nly breath.

Who seeketh heav’n– those who wish to go to heaven


comes of– results of

heav’nly breath– religious word and practice

People that practice religion intend on going to heaven in their afterlife.

Then farewell, world; thy uttermost I see:


farewell, world– accepting death

thy uttermost I see– you (death) is the furthest I see

One is comfortable with the idea of death as it is the last certain thing they know will happen.

Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me.

eternal love– never ending and infinite love

maintain thy life in me– uphold your essence in me

Never ending love has a permanent place in one’s being.

This poem questions many concepts such as love, materialism, religion, afterlife, and divinity. The beginning starts with the idea that love is fading away. And while this physical love leaves, one is supposed to focus their attention on higher things rather than physical. One should aim to attain and maintain religion and knowledge. It is more important to better the mind than focus on things that do not enrich your soul such as physical expensive goods. The fading of this love was meant to be and left one with a higher purpose and a better direction to go in life.

This poem goes on to outline that one must humble themself. Social status, power, and money mean nothing in the long run if one is still unhappy with themself. Happiness and the freedom to not care about such materialistic things will lead to lasting freedom. With a clear mind, life will be easier in all aspects. And in this transition to a clear state of mind and happiness, religion and divine power (often symbolized by light) can be a guide. Life is short, and although one may lose their way, tempted by sin and short lived thrills, those that maintain religion and do not let themselves stray will see heaven after they pass. This poem mentions that death is the last thing that is certain in life, but those that have religion are comfortable with death because they know they will have a promising after life. And this eternal love, not for another person but for one’s self, shall live on forever inside them.

I decided to consult an outside source to see how accurate I was in my analysis and the results were as follows. A pdf published by the University of Basrah provided their own analysis. They interpreted that “this poem is not only about human love, but rather the divine love or spiritual love.” This makes a lot of sense because in no part of the poem was love connected to a physical being. They also note that although the piece has a definite Christian feeling to it, some of the metaphors and phrases used have never been directly clarified and it is up to the reader to take interpretation from them. The pdf also outlines that “fading pleasures and material wealth are not worthy of his attention,” which is something I seemed to pick up on in my analysis in some way. They only part I was having a little bit of difficulty with was the religious symbolism but now knowing that the exact meaning of some of the phrases has never been solidified, I am much more confident with my reading of the poem.

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