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William Shakespeare

(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616 / Warwickshire)

Sonnet 129: Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame


Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and, till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe,
Before a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows, yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Rookie Nick Capozzoli (7/20/2007 1:13:00 AM)

    'Th'expense of spirit' refers to the ejaculation of semen, so this poem can be read as referring to that, whether by masturbation or some other activity that leads to the same result... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Bubba Yman (8/10/2006 4:24:00 PM)

    The first line has stuck with me, remembered at odd times, through many years. It's a fine treatise on lust and the dynamic it creates within our desire bodies. One feels here as if the speaker is posing as a professor, a learned professor, from the school of hard knocks. (Report) Reply

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