Massey on  Shakspear's Sonnets (3)

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 Our most observant Man, most unobserved;
 Maker of Portraits for Humanity!
 He held the Mirror up to Nature's face,
 Forgetting with colossal carelessness
 To look into it and reflect his own:
 Even in the Sonnets he put on the Mask
 And was, at times, a Player as in the Plays.

 

- IV -

PERSONAL SONNETS.

The earliest Sonnets personal to Shakspeare commending
marriage to his young friend the Earl of Southampton.

 

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby Beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender Heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl! mak'st waste in niggarding:
    Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee. (1)

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tattered weed, of small worth held:
Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise:
How much more praise deserved thy beauty's
        use,
If thou could'st answer, "this fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,
"
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
    This were to be new-made when thou art old,
    And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it
            cold. (2)  

Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest,
Now is the time that face should form another,
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest.
Thou dost beguile the world—unbless some
        mother:
For where is she so fair, whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond, will be the tomb
Of his self-love to stop posterity?
Thou art thy Mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:
So thou, through windows of thine age, shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time:
    But if thou live—remembered not to be—
    Die single, and thine image dies with thee. (3)
 
Unthrifty loveliness! why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
Nature's bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
And, being frank, she lends to those are free:
Then, beauteous niggard! why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer! why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For, having traffic with thyself alone,
Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive:
Then how, when Nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
    Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
    Which, used, lives thy executor to be. (4)

Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same,
And that unfair, which fairly doth excel:
For never-resting Time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite
        gone,
Beauty o'er-snowed, and bareness everywhere:
Then, were not Summer's distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was!
    But flowers distilled, though they with winter
            meet,
    Leese but their show; their substance still lives
            sweet.   (5)

Then let not Winter's rugged hand deface
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some phial; treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure, ere it be self-killed:
That use is not forbidden luxury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan:
That's for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier! be it ten for one:
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could Death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
    Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
    To be Death's conquest, and make worms thine
            heir.    (6)
 
Lo, in the Orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under-eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty:
And having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong Youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty, still
Attending on his golden pilgrimage:
But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,

Like feeble Age, he reeleth from the day,
The eyes—'fore duteous—now converted are
From his low tract, and look another way:
    So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon,
    Unlooked on diest, unless thou get a son. (7)

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-tunèd 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." (8)

Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
That thou consum'st thyself in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow! and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep,
By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind;
Look, what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but its place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused, the user so destroys it:
    No love towards others in that bosom sits
    That on himself such murderous shame
            commits. (9)

For shame! deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thyself art so unprovident:
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lov'st is most evident;
For thou art so possessed with murderous hate
That 'gainst thyself thou stick'st not to conspire;
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire:
O, change thy thought, that I may change my
        mind!
Shall Hate be freer lodged than gentle Love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself, at least, kind-hearted prove;
    Make thee another self, for love of me,
    That beauty still may live in thine or thee. (10)

As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou
        growest
In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
And that fresh blood which youngly thou
        bestowest
Thou may'st call thine, when thou from youth
        convertest:
Herein lives wisdom, beauty and increase;
Without this, folly, age, and cold decay:
If all were minded so, the times should cease,
And threescore years would make the world away:
Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish:
Look, whom she best endowed, she gave thee
        more;
Which bounteous gift thou should'st in bounty
        cherish;
    She carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby
    Thou should'st print more, nor let that copy
            die. (11)

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls are [all] silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And Summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard;—
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou amongst the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
    And nothing' gainst Time's scythe can make
            defence,
    Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee
            hence. (12)

O, that you 'were yourself! but Love, you are
No longer yours, than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give:
So should that beauty which you hold in lease,
Find no determination; then you were
Yourself again after yourself's decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should
        bear:
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day,
And barren rage of Death's eternal cold?
    O none but unthrifts!    Dear, my Love, you know
    You had a Father; let your Son say so. (13)

 

    In my previous treatment of the Sonnets I did not dare to date the earliest of them quite early enough; nor did I fully apprehend all that depended on getting the Chronology absolutely right.  I then said,—"In this first group the Poet advises and persuades his young friend the Earl of Southampton to get married.  A very practical object in writing the Sonnets!  This of itself shows that he did not set out to write after the fashion of Drayton and Daniel, and dally with 'Idea' as they did.  Here is a young noble of nature's own making; a youth of quick and kindling blood, apt to take fire at a touch, whether of pleasure or of pain; likely enough to be enticed into the garden of Armida, and the palace of sin.  He is left without the guidance of a father, and the Poet feels for him an affection all the more protecting and paternal. We may perceive that underneath the pretty conceits sparkling on the surface of these Earlier Sonnets there lies a grave purpose, a profound depth of wisdom.  This urgency on the score of marriage is no mere sonneteering trick, or playing with the shadows of things.  The writer knows well enough that there is nothing like true marriage, a worthy wife, the love of children, and a happy home, to bring the exuberant life into the keeping of the highest, holiest law.  Nothing like the wifely influence, and the clinging of children's wee fingers, for twining winningly about the lusty energies of youth, and realizing the antique image of Love riding on a lion; the laughing mite triumphantly leading captive the fettered might, having taken him 'prisoner, in a red rose chain!'  Seeing his young friend surrounded with temptations, his personal beauty of mien and manner being so prominent a mark for the darts of the wicked one, he would fain have him safely shielded by the sacred shelter of marriage. Accordingly he assails him with suggestion and argument in many forms of natural appeal; and whilst harping much on the main object for which marriage was designed, the harmony of the life truly wedded rises like a strain of exquisite music, as it were, wooing the youth from within the doors of the marriage sanctuary."—This has now to be modified.  And here let me say, it is a great advantage as well as a privilege to be able to write one's work over again after many years.  It is like having had the benefit of experience in being married a second time.

   
The earliest Sonnets on marriage could not have been written until after Shakspeare had read the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney. So great is the likeness likeness between Sidney's writing and Shakspeare's Sonnets, that Sir Walter Scott fancied these must have been read by Sidney.  The likeness remains, but the facts were just reversed by him.  Shakspeare, not Sidney, was the borrower.  He has adopted plea after plea and argument after argument in favour of marriage, and taken the greater part of his subject matter for the first 12 or 13 Sonnets from Sidney's Arcadia. In Book iii. pp. 431, 432, of that work, will be found these arguments' on behalf of marriage and children

    "No, no, my dear niece (said Cecropia), Nature, when you were first born, vowed you a woman, and as she made you child of a mother, so to do your best to be mother of a child.  She gave you beauty to move love; she gave you wit to know love; she gave you an excellent body to reward love; which kind of liberal rewarding is crowned with an unspeakable felicity.  For this, as it bindeth the receiver, so it makes happy the bestower.  This doth not impoverish, but enrich the giver.  O the comfort of comforts, to see your children grow up, in whom you are, as it were, eternised!  If you could conceive what a heart-tickling joy it is to see your own little ones, with awful love come running to your lap, and like little models of yourself still carry you about them, you would think unkindness in your own thoughts, that ever they did rebel against the measure to it.  Perchance I set this blessedness before your eyes, as captains do victory before their soldiers, to which they must come thro' many pains, griefs, and dangers?  No, I am content you shrink from this my counsel, if the way to come unto it be not most of all pleasant."

    "I know not (answered the sweet Philoclea) what contentment you speak of, but I am sure the best you can make of it (which is marriage) is a burdenous yoke."

    "Ah, dear niece (said Cecropia), how much you are deceived. A yoke, indeed, we all bear, laid upon us in creation, which by marriage is not increased, but thus far eased that you have a yoke-fellow to help draw through the cloddy cumbers of this world.  O widow-nights, bear witness with me of the difference! How often alas, do I embrace the orphan side of my bed, which was wont to be imprinted by the body of my dear husband! Believe me, niece, man's experience is woman's best eye-sight. Have you ever seen a pure rose-water kept in a crystal glass?  How fine it looks I how sweet it smells while the beautiful glass imprisons it!  Break the prison, and let the water take his own course, doth it not embrace the dust, and lose all his former sweetness and fairness? Truly so are we, if we have not the stay rather than the restraint of crystalline marriage.  My heart melts to think of the sweet comfort I, in that happy time, received, when I had never cause to care but the care was doubled; when I never rejoiced, but that I saw my joy shine in another's eyes.  And is a solitary life as good as this?  Then, can one string make as good music as a consort?   Then, can one colour set forth a beauty?"

   
This passage contains most of the Texts for the first 13 Sonnets. Take the last one first; "Can one string make as good music as a consort?" (concert) and see how it is expanded in Sonnet 8, where the concert or harmony of parts is pourtrayed.  Look next at the imagery of distillation applied in Sonnets 5 and 6; here in the lines italicized are the suggestions of the "liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass," Sonnet 5, and the following out of the illustration in the next Sonnet, "Make sweet some vial;" the suggestion of Sonnet 6—

Which happies those that pay the willing loan.

Also of the children—same Sonnet—which are to "eternise," so that death shall leave him "living in posterity;" the argument of the "single string" in Sonnet 8, reversely applied; the image of the widow with her children, who keep her husband's form in mind, Sonnet 9; the plea, "O change thy thought," because it is unkindly, Sonnet 10; the argument of Sonnet 11,—

Which bounteous gift then should'st in bounty cherish.
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.—Sonnet 13.

The suggestion of Sonnet 13—

Dear, my Love, you know
You had a Father: let your son say so!

    All these are in that brief passage of Sidney's prose, and all are used for the same purpose, the main difference being that in the Arcadia it is a woman speaking to a woman.  Various other illustrations might be cited, to show that Shakspeare has literally adopted sentiment, idea, and image, one after the other, from the Arcadia.  Let me draw out a brief parallel of likenesses in accordance with the order of the Sonnets.

 

Sonnets.

From fairest creatures we desire increase
That thereby Beauty's Pose might never die. (1)



When forty Winters shall besiege thy brow.  (2)



If thou couldst answer, this fair child of mine
Shall sum my count.    (2)
Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime. (3)

A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass.  (5)
Make sweet some vial.  (6)

Which happies those that pay the willing loan. (6)




No love towards others in that bosom sits,
That on himself such murderous shame  commits.
                                                               (10)
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate,
Which to repair should be thy chief desire. (10)

Then you were yourself again after your self's
        decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should
        bear.  (13)
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay
Which husbandry in honour might uphold. (13)

                         Dear, my love, you know
You had a father; let your son say so. (13)

And you must live drawn by your own sweet
        skill.   (16)

For all that beauty that cloth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart.  (22)


For all that beauty that doth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me,
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O therefore love be of thyself so wary. (22)


 

Arcadia.

    Beauty is a gift which those on whomsoever
the heavens have bestowed it are without
question bound to use it for the noble purpose
for which it was created.

    Will you suffer your beauty to be hidden in
 wrinkles?  These forty Winters have I married
been.
 
   She made you child of a mother, so to do
your best to be mother of a child.



    Have you ever seen a pure rose-water kept in a
crystal glass?

    It makes happy the bestower.
    That indeed is the right happiness which is
not only in itself happy, but can also derive
the happiness to another.

If thus thou murder thy posterity,
Thy very being thou hast not deserved.

Thy House by thee must live or else be gone.


    Oh, the Comfort of Comforts, to see your
children grow up, in whom you are, as it were,
eternized . . . little models of yourself.




    She made you child of a mother, so to do
your best to be a mother of a child.

    With his sweet skill my skilless youth be drew.


                               My wealth is you,
My beauty's hue your beams, my health your deeds;
My mind for weeds your virtue's livery wears.

My true-love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss
There never was a better bargain driven:
His heart in me keeps me, and him in me;
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides;
He loves my heart, for once it was his own;
I'll cherish his because in me it bides.

 

    The following passages are selected from 'Geron and Histor' (Arcadia 71) as a further specimen of Sidney's argument in verse—

"In faith, good Histor, long is your delay
 From holy marriage, sweet and surest meane,
 Our foolish lust in honest rules to stay:
 Believe me, man, there is no greater bliss
 Than is the quiet joy of loving wife,
 Which whose wants, half of himself doth miss.
 Friend without change, play-fellow without strife
 Is this sweet doubling of a single life.
 .            .            .            .            .            .            .
 Nature above all things requireth this,
 That we our kind do labour to maintain,
 Which drawn-out line doth hold all human bliss:
 The Father justly may of thee complain,
 If thou do not repay his deeds for thee,
 In granting unto him a grandsire's name.
 Thy Commonwealth may rightly grievèd be,
 Which must by this immortal be preserved,
 If thus thou murther thy posterity!
.            .            .            .            .            .            .
 O Histor, seek within thyself to flourish;
 Thy House by thee must live, or else be gone,
 And then who shall the name of Histor nourish?
 Riches of children pass a Prince's throne.

    The matter of Shakspeare's first 13 Sonnets then is mainly adapted from Sidney's Arcadia, which was published in 1590.  But the most fully-developed faculty of comparison can detect nothing in the first 13 Sonnets that could have been derived from Sidney's Sonnets in his 'Astrophel and Stella,' which was NOT published until 1591.  This very striking fact tends to warrant the inference that these 13 Sonnets, at least, were written immediately after Shakspeare had read the Arcadia in 1590, and before he had seen the Astrophel and Stella of 1591.  Because with Sonnet 14 the likeness to or borrowing from the later work begins.  For example, Sidney writes—

"Though dusty Wits dare scorn Astrology,
 And Fools can think those lamps of purest light—
 Whose numbers, ways, greatness, eternity,
 Promising wonders, wonders do invite—
 To have for no cause birthright in the sky
 But for to spangle the black weeds of night;
 Or for some brawl, which in that chamber high,
 They should still dance to please a gazer's sight;
 For me I do Nature un-idle know,
 And know great Causes great effects procure;
 And know those bodies high reign on the low;
 And if those rules did fail proof makes me sure,
     Who oft foresee my after-following race
     By only those two stars in Stella's face." (26, Grosart's Ed.)

    Now the writing of a Sonnet properly consists in the perfect evolution of one thought.  In that sense this is a perfect Sonnet, as so many of Sidney's are.  The subject is Astrology, an earlier form of Astronomy.  The writer is a believer in astrology; he prognosticates the future by means of its science.  Not by the stars in heaven though, but by the heaven of those two stars in Stella's face.  Now see how Shakspeare takes the one thought and turns it to his own account, on the line of his one thought running through many Sonnets, viz. that of getting his friend to marry—

"Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,
 And yet methinks I have Astronomy;  [25]
 But not to tell of good or evil luck,
 Of plagues, of deaths, or Seasons' quality
 Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
 Pointing to each its thunder, rain or wind;
 Or say with Princes if it shall go well,
 By oft predict that I in Heaven find:
 But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
 And—constant Stars!—in them I read such Art
 As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
 If from thyself to store thou would'st convert;
     Or else of thee this I prognosticate
     Thy end is Truth's and Beauty's doom and date."

    After this there is considerable derivation at times, but no such wholesale adoption of argument as there was from the Arcadia.

    This is from one of Sidney's songs—

"Doubt you to whom my Muse these notes intendeth,
 Which now my breast surcharged to music lendeth!
                       To you, to you
                       All song of praise is due,
 Only in you my song begins and endeth.

 Who hath the eyes that marry state with pleasure,
 Who keeps the key of Nature's chiefest treasure!
                        To you, to you
                        All song of praise is due,
 Only for you the  Heaven forgat all measure."

    My reader probably knows how often that strain is echoed in Shakspeare's Sonnets.

    In his wretched outcast state Sidney describes his forlorn condition as that of a bankrupt.  He says—

"With what sharp cheeks I in myself am shent
 When into Reason's Audit I do go,
 And by just counts myself a bankrupt know
 Of all those goods which Heaven to me hath lent;
 Unable quite to pay even Nature's rent,
 Which unto it by birthright I do owe;
 And which is worse no good excuse can show,
 But that my wealth I have most idly spent!
 My youth doth waste, my knowledge brings forth toys;
 My wit doth strive these passions to defend,
 Which for reward spoil it with vain annoys:
 I see my course to lose myself doth bend;
     I see—and yet no greater sorrow take
     Than that I lose no more for Stella's sake."

    In the next Sonnet Sidney writes

"When most I glory, then I feel most shame,"

 and in Sonnet 64—

"Let Fortune lay on me her worst disgrace,
 Let folk o'ercharged with brain against me cry."

This position of the bankrupt is similar, and the same thoughts are amplified, the expression being intensified, in Shakspeare's 29th and 30th Sonnets, in which the speaker bemoans his bankrupt condition, his outcast state, the waste of his previous time.  In the one case the speaker is self-summoned to the audit and reckoning of Reason.  In the other the speaker says—

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
  I summon up remembrance of things past."

Sidney writes of Stella (1st Song) as she "who long-dead beauty with increase reneweth."  The speaker of Sonnet 31 says—

"Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts
 Which I, by lacking, have supposèd dead;
 And there reigns love and all love's loving parts,
 And all those friends that I thought buried."—Sonnet 31.

In his absence from Stella Sidney writes, Sonnets 88, 89—

"Out, traitor Absence, darest thou counsel me
 From my dear Captainess to run away."
 .            .            .            .            .            .            .
"Tush, Absence; while thy mists eclipse that light,
 My orphan sense flies to the inward sight."
                                                    (Cf. Shakspeare, Sonnet 61.)
 .            .            .            .            .            .            .

                      NIGHT AND DAY.

"Now that of absence the most irksome night
 With darkest shade doth overcome my day;
 Since Stella's eyes, wont to give me my day,
 Leaving my hemisphere, leave me in night;
 Each day seems long, and longs for long-staid night;
 The night, as tedious, woos th' approach of day:
 Tired with the dusty toils of busy day,
 Languished with horror of the silent night;
 Suffering the evils both of day and night,
 While no night is more dark than is my day,
 Nor no day hath less quiet than my night:
 With such bad mixture of my night and day,
     That living thus in blackest Winter night,
     I feel the flames of hottest Summer day."

With these lines we may compare the following of Shakspeare's, which are uttered by a speaker in his absence from the person addressed—

"Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
 The dear repose for limbs with travel tired,
 But then begins a journey in my head
 To work my mind, when body's work's expired:
 For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
 Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
 And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
 Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
 Save that my soul's imaginary sight
 Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
 Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night)
 Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new:
    Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
    For thee, and for myself, no quiet find."—Sonnet 27.

"How can I then return in happy plight
 That am debarred the benefit of rest?
 When day's oppression is not eased by night,
 But day by night and night by day oppressed."—Sonnet 28.
    .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .
"But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer,
 And night doth nightly make grief's length seem stronger."
                                                                                        —Sonnet 28.

Each Poet also writes a Sonnet on seeing the beloved one imaged by night in sleep.

 

SHAKSPEARE'S.

When most I wink then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected,
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed:
Then thou whose shadow shadows doth make
        bright,
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would (I say) mine eyes be blessed made,
By looking on thee in the living day?
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
    All days are nights to see till I see thee,
    And nights bright days when dreams do shew
            thee me.                                                   Sonnet 43.

SIDNEY'S.

This night, while sleep begins with heavy wings
To hatch mine eyes, and that unbitted thought
Doth fall to stray, and my chief powers are
        brought
To leave the sceptre of all subject things;
The first that straight my fancy's error brings
Unto my mind is Stella's image, wrought
By Love's own self, but with so curious drought
That she, methinks, not only shines but sings:
I start, look, hark; but what in closed-up sense
Was held, in opened sense it flies away,
Leaving me nought but wailing eloquence:
I, seeing better sights in sight's decay,
    Called it anew, and wooèd Sleep again;
    But him, her host, that unkind guest had
            slain.                                                        Sonnet 98.

 

The following lines are spoken by Sidney in absence and on horseback—

"I on my horse, and Love on me, doth try
 Our horsemanships, while by strange work I prove
 A horseman to my horse, a horse to Love,
 And now man's wrongs in me, poor beast! descry:
 The rein wherewith my rider cloth me tie
 Are humbled thoughts, which bit of reverence move,
 Curbed in with fear, but with gilt bosse above
 Of hope, which makes it seem fair to the eye;
 The wand is will; thou, Fancy, saddle art,
 Girt fast by Memory; and while I spur
 My horse, he spurs with sharp desire my heart;
 He sits me fast, however I do stir;
     And now bath made me to his hand so right,
     That in the manage myself take delight. "—Sidney's Sonnets, 49.

    Again, Sidney speaks on horseback—

"High-way! since you my chief Parnassus be,
 And that my Muse, to some ears not unsweet,
 Tempers her words to trampling horses' feet
 More oft than to a chamber-melody:
 Now blessed you bear onward blessed me
 To her, where I, my heart safe left, shall meet."

    Compare with these the 50th and 51st of Shakspeare's Sonnets. This will suffice to demonstrate the fact that Shakspeare did also copy from or imitate Sidney in his Astrophel and Stella.  But this was in Sonnets that follow the first 13.

    Here then is further evidence to show that Shakspeare's Sonnets were begun as early as 1590, and therefore they were in time for the writer to be the New Sonneteer aimed at by Nash as a Player and a man of "little Country Grammar knowledge."

    Now there was a scheme afoot as early as the year 1590 for capturing the young Earl of Southampton in marriage.  After the death of his father he became the ward of Lord Burleigh, who designed him to marry the Lady Vere, his own grand-daughter. It is noticeable that some years later the old diplomatist seems to have been bent on marrying William Herbert to another of his grand-daughters, Bridget de Vere.  In both instances, however, the intention was thwarted.  In regard to Southampton and his contemplated marriage, we learn from a letter written by Sir Thomas Stanhope to Lord Burleigh on July 15th, 1590, that he had never sought the young Earl in marriage with his own daughter as he knew of Burleigh's intended marriage between that nobleman and the Lady Vere.  On the 19th of September, 1590, Southampton's grandfather, Viscount Montague, tells Lord Burleigh that he has been talking with the Earl of Southampton respecting his engagement with Burleigh's grand-daughter.  At this time the Countess of Southampton is not aware of any alteration in the mind of her son. [26]  The son's mind, however, did change, and the engagement was broken off.  The Lady Vere only played the part of Rosaline before young Romeo met his fate in Juliet.  As Southampton was the "Child of State," and one of those to whom the Queen was a sort of god-mother because he was fatherless, and as he was Burleigh's Ward of State, and Burleigh was a favourite servant of Elizabeth's, it appears probable that she resented this backing out on the part of Southampton, and thus the long series of his troubles and misfortunes began; this being the primary cause of his finding himself in "disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes."  It was not a matter of imprisonment or banishment, but Elizabeth had other means of making the frown of her wonted displeasure most profoundly felt.

    Here then we find that Shakspeare's young friend, his "Sweet Boy," was actually engaged to be married before he was 17 years old.  It being early to bed and early to wed in the Elizabethan age.  And thus we can recognize the time in Southampton's life when Shakspeare's argument for Marriage is a reflex from the external history.  Southampton being indubitably identified as the "Sweet Boy" in his comely beauty; the "Tender Heir," the Fatherless Youth, the "World's fresh Ornament" addressed and described in the earliest Sonnets, we are now able to apprehend the motive, the theme, the true subject, or passion of these first poems.  At so early an age there does not seem to have been sufficient warrant for all the urgency of Shakspeare in the matter of marriage generally, nor for its immediate application to the youngster of 17 years.  But we must learn to think less of the direct object and dwell more on the subjects of the Sonnets.  The circumstances and position of Southampton supplied this subject, whoever suggested its being treated in verse.  The suggestion. may have been made by that mother who is complimented in the lines

"Thou art thy Mother's glass, and she in thee
 Calls back the lovely April of her prime,"

the mother from whom he derived his "beauty's legacy" (Sonnets 3 and 4).  Or, Shakspeare may have backed the intended marriage with Burleigh's granddaughter, thinking it would be a good thing if the noose were applied as soon as possible to the neck of the headstrong youth, especially under such fortunate auspices for one who was so literally the "Child of State."  Being desirous of breaking off this engagement the youth might naturally declaim against marriage altogether, like the Lords in Love's Labour's Lost, vow that he was not going to marry, and pose as an inveterate opponent of matrimony.  It is the very young who are the most pronounced mysogonists.  That is the standpoint which would supply Shakspeare with a sufficient motive for his argument.  Thus, suggestion for the theme of the first Sonnets is made apparent by the fact that the young Earl was so averse to marriage that he would not and did not consent to the family arrangement; and by the further fact that he was fatherless, and the sole heir of his house and name.

    The Poet says we derive increase from nature's fairest creatures to preserve the Race of Beauty, or to propagate the flower of the Pace, and you, the World's "fresh ornament" and "Only Herald to the gaudy Spring," declare you will not marry! But your beauty will fade, the flower wither as a weed, and there will be nothing to show for it.  Your glass will tell you now is the time to till some maiden garden with your husbandry and bless some mother.  If you die single your image dies with you.  But do not let this flower of youth and beauty wither.  Distil it rather and make sweet some vial in which the precious essence shall be preserved.  The more repetitions of your likeness the better—

"Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
 If ten of thine ten times re-figured thee."

    In the first Sonnet he is called a "tender churl," who threatens to "make waste" by his "niggarding;" he is a "beauteous niggard" and a "profitless usurer" in Sonnet 4.  He is pleaded with in Sonnet 6, "Be not self-willed;" he is charged with self-love; with being beloved by many and with loving none (Sonnet 10).  The writer urged in this Sonnet, "Oh change thy thought," i.e. respecting marriage, and reminds him that if all were like-minded the race would come to an end with the present generation.  The last plea in Sonnet 13 is on behalf of the Ancestral House—

"Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
 Which Husbandry in honour might uphold?"

"Dear my love, you know
 You
HAD a Father; Let your Son say so!"

This subject was continued in the Venus and Adonis; and as his Poet proclaims that Southampton was the original of this "Counterfeit" then his shying at the proposed marriage becomes the shyness of Adonis to the invitations of Venus.  "Love he laughed to scorn," is said of young Adonis and illustrated by the boy Southampton.  "Nature that made thee with herself at strife" (stanza 2) is the summary of Sonnet 20 in a single line.  It has already been shown how the Poem was a repetition and continuation of the early Sonnet theme, with a warmer wooing on account of Venus,—Southampton being in his twentieth year when the Poem was presented to him!  And we now see the reason for this repetition of the same argument in the Poem, both Sonnets and Poem being portions of his work that was pre-dedicated to Southampton.

    Shakspeare did not look on the Sonnets as he did on the Poem, which he calls the "first heir of my Invention."  The Sonnets were written on subjects suggested or supplied by the private friend or friends.  Thus the poem as "first heir" of his own invention shows that he made no claim to originality in the Sonnets where the Ideas had been adopted from Sidney.  And most probably his adoption of the matter was the result of a request that he should try his hand in turning Sidney's prose into Sonnets.  It certainly was no result of unconscious imitation or mere assimilative sympathy.  He knew what he was about, and may have looked upon the prose as matter for his private verse.  The Arcadia and Sonnets of Sidney were as well-known to Southampton as to Shakspeare, and I now argue that this was the result of deliberate adoption.  He was not borrowing from Sidney by any right of royalty or "Sovereignty of nature."  Sidney's writings would furnish one of those "precedents of high excellence" which were followed by beginners and allowed in those days.  The "Pupil Pen" was copying from a well-known master, consequently it could hardly be considered plagiarism.  Others are found to have honoured Shakspeare by the same form of flattery; and returned to him the same kind of compliment that he paid to Sidney.

    Shakspeare, I take it, only wrote in the Sonnet form because Sidney had done so.  Most assuredly be did NOT take to the Sonnet as one might catch up a hand-mirror to reflect one's self, nor to make it his form of confessional when, as Schegel puts it, he "had feelings intense and secret to express."  He became the master who perfected Sidney's model on behalf of his subject matter, moulded for the delight of his dear friend.  Otherwise it may well be doubted whether Shakspeare himself had any great love for the Sonnet.  He humorously satirizes the sonneteers in Love's Labour's Lost

"This is the liver vein, which makes flesh a deity:
 A green goose, a goddess: pure, pure idolatry."

"Tush! none but minstrels like of sonneting."

    These first Sonnets are sent to Southampton to "Witness duty," not to show the Poet's wit (Sonnet 26).  Such duty implies that they were written by request or upon subjects suggested, as intimated by the public statement "what I have to do is yours.  This duty was so great that Shakspeare fears his wit may prove inadequate in showing his sense of it.  But he sends the Sonnets, his "Books" of them, as in duty bound, to serve until he has written something better which he hopes to dedicate publicly. They are essentially private and not to be thought of as intended for the eye of the public.  In Sonnet 21 the writer says—

"I will not praise that purpose not to sell."

They are Southampton's Sonnets.  They are to stand against his sight, and remain in his keeping; and the writer looks forward to his paper becoming "yellow with age."  This should put us on our guard against bringing in the public where the Sonnets were composed solely for the "Private Friends," and the matter was meant for privacy.

    Here the ground is felt to be firm underfoot at starting.  Nor does this beginning detract from the interest or the beauty of these particular Sonnets.  As we study them with their rootage thus revealed, it is like looking at the fibres of a hyacinth-bulb held up in a water-glass against the light; we can see the life in embryo; see what a quickening womb was this man's nature to every germ, and particle or monad of life; see the wonder wrought, the transformation effected—creation caught in the act, and learn that creation with a Shakspeare is not ex nihilo.

    Such is the enrichment of his re-touch, such the freshness of new life he breathes into the work that the idea comes out perfectly pristine, and looks as if it had been reclaimed rather than borrowed.  Our study will serve to show us that others contributed to the Making of Shakspeare, and that his immense range was not any mere result of a personal originality, and absolute invention, nor of a begettal on himself!  In truth the greatest of all poets and supremest literary man was the one to whom human nature contributed most, including matter from the printed as well as the unwritten book.  That made his range so universal.  The direct indebtedness in this case was undoubtedly exceptional on account of his private purpose, but it is to some extent typical of his mind and method, and the charge of purloining made by Greene was not entirely without warrant.  So unconscionable is this borrowing and adapting, however, when judged by the modern standard (set up if not always acted up to!) that an argument might be founded on it to the effect that Shakspeare was ONLY imitating Sidney in these Sonnets instead of drawing from his own life and making autobiographic confessions on the shady side of his own character.  The position, however, as I apprehend it was this. Shakspeare as friend of the young Southampton plays the part or assumes the character of Languet the elder friend of Philip Sidney.  Languet had been especially anxious for Sidney to be married, as we learn from one of the "Zurich Letters," March 1578, in which Sidney says—" I wonder . . . that when I have not as yet done anything worthy Of me, you would have vie bound in the chains of matrimony."

    Sidney also writes of this his friend and teacher—

"The song I sang old Languet had me taught—
 Languet, the shepherd best swift Ister knew
 For clerkly rede, and hating what is naught;
 For faithful heart, clean hands, and month as true;
 With his sweet skill my skilless youth he drew
 To have a feeling taste of him that sits
 Beyond the heaven, far more beyond our wits.
 He liked me but pitied lustful youth,
 His good strong staff my slippery years up-bore;
 He still hoped well because I loved truth." (A. S. 70, Grosart.)

    It is possible that these first Sonnets were thus intended to be a reminder of Sidney the Hero, Scholar, Poet, and Peerless Peer of his time, the very mirror of knighthood, the perfect flower of England's chivalry.  Shakspeare was quite capable of modestly sheltering himself under the ægis of Sidney when setting up to offer advice on this subject of marriage.  With his known quotations he would virtually be saying it is not I alone who advocate the wedded life as happiest, noblest, purest, best.  You hear what Philip Sidney says—Sidney who was

"The Courtier's, Soldier's, Scholar's eye, tongue, sword;
 The expectancy and Rose of the fair state,
 The glass of fashion and the mould of form."

                          "Sidney as he fought,
 And as he fell, and as he lived and loved,
 Sublimely mild, a spirit without spot,"

must have left the imprint of his natural nobility, heroic lineaments, and intellectual graces permanently stampt upon the soul of Shakspeare; and I am inclined to think it was a poetic conceit of his to bring the influence of Sidney to bear more cunningly by means of memory and suggestion upon the character of his friend the young Earl of Southampton.

_____________________________

 

Footnotes.

[25.](page 75)   "Astronomy."  This exchange is curious.  Astrology was the correct term, but this belonged to the later science.

[26.](page 78)  Calendar of State Papers.  Domestic Series of the Reign of Elizabeth, 1581-1590, p. 688.

[Top of page]
 

- V -

PERSONAL SONNETS.

The argument for marriage continued, with the introduction of a new theme; that of the writer's power to immortalize his friend.

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or season's quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
'Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind;
Or say with Princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in Heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And,—constant stars,—in them I read such art,
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou would'st convert;
    Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
    Thy end is Truth's and Beauty's doom and
            date. (14)

When I consider everything that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment;
That this huge stage presenteth nought but
        shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheerèd and check'd even by the self-same sky;
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
    And all in war with Time for love of you,
    As he takes from you, I engraft you new.  (15)

But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
And fortify yourself in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren
        rhyme?
Now stand you on the top of happy hours!
And many maiden gardens, yet unset,
With virtuous wish would bear your living
        flowers;
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
So should the lines of life that life repair,
Which this time's Pencil, or my pupil Pen,  [27]
Neither in inward worth, nor outward fair,
Call make you live yourself in eyes of men:
    To give away yourself keeps yourself still,
    And you must live, drawn by your own sweet
            skill. (16)

Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your
        parts!
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come. would say "this Poet lies,
Such, heavenly touches ne'er touched earthly faces:"
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue:
And your true rights be termed a Poet's rage,
And stretchèd metre of an antique song:
    But were some child of yours alive that time,
    You should live twice; in it, and in my rhyme. (17)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or Nature's changing course
        untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his
        shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. (18)

Devouring Time, blunt thou the Lion's paws,
And make the Earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce Tiger's jaws,
And burn the long-lived Phœnix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world, and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my Love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow,
For Beauty's pattern to succeeding men!
    Yet, do thy worst, old Time; despite thy wrong,
    My Love shall in my verse live ever young. (19)

A Woman's face, with Nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou the master-mistress of my Passion;
A Woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steal Men's eyes and Women's souls
        amazeth:
And for a Woman wert thou first created,

Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing:
    But since she marked thee out for women's
            pleasure,
    Mine be thy love and thy love's use their
            treasure. (20)

So is it not with me as with that Muse
Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament cloth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse;
Making a couplement of proud compare
With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich
        gems,
With April's first-born flowers, and all things
        rare
That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.
O, let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my Love is as fair
As any mother's child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fixed in heaven's air:
    Let them say in more that like of hearsay well;
    I will not praise that purpose not to sell. (21)

My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date:
But when in thee Time's furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate:
For all that beauty that doth cover thee,
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me;
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O, therefore, Love, be of thyself so wary,
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill:
    Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain,
    Thou gav'st me thine not to give back again. (22)

As an unperfect Actor on the stage
Who with his fear is put beside his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with toe much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own
       heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to
        decay,
O'ercharged with burthen of mine own love's
        might:
O, let my Books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast;
Who plead for love and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more
        expressed:
    O learn to read what silent love hath writ;
    To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit. (23)

Mine eye hath played the painter, and hath stell'd
Thy beauty's form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein 'tis held,
And perspective it is best painter's art:
For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictured lies,
Which in my bosom's shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes:
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done!
Mine eves have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-thro' the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;
    Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art—
    They draw but what they see, know not the
            heart. (24)

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, in whom Fortune of such triumph
        bars,
Unlooked-for joy in that I honour most:
Great Princes' favourites their fair leaves
        spread,
But as the marygold at the still's eye;
And in themselves their pride lies burièd,
For at a frown they in their glory die:
The painful warrior famousèd for worth
After a thousand victories once foiled,
Is from the book of honour rasèd forth,
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled:
    Then happy I, that love and am beloved
    Where I may not remove, nor be removed. (25)

Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit:
Duty so great which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to
        show it;
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul's thought, all naked will bestow it:
Till whatsoever star that guides my moving
Points on me graciously with fair aspèct,
And puts apparel on my tattered loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect:
    Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee:
    Till then, not show my head where thou mayst
            prove me. (26)

    This second group of Personal Sonnets continues the argument for marriage with a new theme added to the subject matter.  The Poet had pleaded with Southampton on behalf of his House now going to decay and on account of posterity, but as the friend will not marry to perpetuate himself and his comeliness in his children it becomes the object of his Poet to rescue him from oblivion.

    This supplies the second motive for further Sonnets.  Then begins the Poet's "War with Time," for love of his friend.  As old Time takes from him, it is the writer's work to "engraft" anew the youth, the beauty, the lovable features of his friend.  Thus it behoves Shakspeare to do that which Southampton declines to do for himself when the Poet advises him to "Make war upon this bloody tyrant Time," by a "mightier way" and "means more blessed" than his own barren rhymes.  There are many maidens who with "virtuous wish" would mirror back a picture of himself "much liker" life than any painted portrait or likeness poetized, whether drawn by the Master Pencil of the time or the Poet's "Pupil Pen."  If he would truly live in the "eyes of men" it must be by means of the portrait that can only be drawn by his "own sweet skill" and not by that of painter or poet.  Besides, who would believe the Poet's tale in times to come if he were to fill his verse with his friend's deserts, and do justice to his character and his personal attractions.  They would say, "this Poet lies." But if a child of his were extant as a witness then he would live twice over, once in his offspring, and again in the Poet's rhyme. His most ingenious argument goes subtly on its winding way to the heart of the matter with a serpentining sort of grace.  He commences his portrait directly in Sonnet 18 with a sudden leap in the pulse of his power.  He makes an immense stride in lines like these, as if he had put on the seven-league boots—

"But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
 Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
 Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
 When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
 So long as we can breathe or eyes can see,
 So long lives this, and this gives life to thee,"—Sonnet
18.

    In the following Sonnet his challenge to Time is defiant as it was previously to Death—

"Yet, do thy worst, old Time; despite thy wrong,
 My Love shall in my verse live ever young."

The portrait is more expressly painted in Sonnet 20, when he describes the beauty of both sexes.  But he protests against all extravagance even in sonneteering.  It is not with him as it is with those who are "stirred by a painted beauty," and who make all sorts of false comparisons.  His argument, like his practice, is for truth to nature.  Sonnet 21 contains an answer to those who hold that the flowery tenderness and exquisite spring-tints of Sonnets 98 and 99 were devoted to a man as the object of them.  The Poet here says he does not compare his friend "with April's first-born flowers and all things rare, that Heaven's air in this huge rondure hems." He protests that he does not use the "gross painting" the "strained touches Rhetoric can lend."  It is the very opposite of his nature and art to write in the extravagant style and "high astounding terms," so often used: he most emphatically rebukes those who have assumed that he perpetrated all kinds of sonneteering nonsense, and exceeded all others in his fantastic exaggeration and amorous reversal of the sexes.  In these Sonnets he tells us that he writes of and from reality.

    The tone of this Sonnet has a manly ring.  It contains no phrase effeminately fond; no outward signs of inward servitude to falsehood of any kind.  His love being true he will write truthfully.  Elsewhere he says—

"Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathized
 In true, plain words by thy true-telling friend."

The Muse here aimed at is evidently that of Sidney.  It was he who did use "Heaven itself for ornament" in designating his love by the name of "Stella," and ransacking external nature to lavish on her the most extravagant comparisons he could make. Shakspeare says his love is as fair

"As any mother's child, though not so bright
 As those gold candles fixed in Heaven's air
; "

that is, he will not compare him or clothe him with the stars, as Sidney did his Stella!  It is a fact still more interesting, that the seal-ring of Shakspeare, now preserved at Stratford, the ring he used to seal his letters with, shows the true lover's knot entwining about his initials W. S.  Therefore "True in Love" was his own chosen personal motto, the sense of which, as this Sonnet shows, was not limited to the outside of his letters, for he has identified himself by name and in the character of True-in-love; "oh, let me, true in love but truly write," in keeping with the motto on his seal.  In Sonnet 22 the intimacy is so near that the two are as one.  On this account the Poet pleads—

"Oh, therefore Love, be of thyself so wary
 As I, not for myself but for thee will;
 Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
 As tender nurse her babe from faring ill!"

And the man who personally utters this protecting sentiment with almost motherly tenderness of feeling, is the one they say who was all the time keeping a mistress of the loosest character, and who would therefore be the direct cause of leading the youth to be seduced by the Poet's own temptress.

    In these Sonnets it is the Poet's intention to paint a portrait of his young friend, and make his likeness live in "eternal lines," so that others may see him through Shakspeare's proud and loving eyes, and he may live hereafter more admired than now.  In Sonnets 18, 19, 20, 21 we see the painter at work on the portrait. He draws his lines and lays on his colours.  The lines are to be permanent, the colours not to be exaggerated.  He is to be made immortal as an image of biune beauty; a man in complexion with the tender heart of a woman.  In Sonnet 24 the picture is finished and on view.  Here then the Poet is working at this likeness of his friend as a subject, the third theme of three different ones treated in the first 24 Sonnets.  Thus the Earl of Southampton is the subject rather than the object of the Poet's passion or poem; and this is the special aspect it is desirable to dwell upon and consider for awhile, in order that we may attain the absolutely necessary detachment from the old false standpoint.

    We also learn from this group of Sonnets that they are written in batches which Shakspeare calls his "Books,"—

"Oh, let my Books be then the eloquence
 And dumb presagers of my speaking breast."

When he is with his friend he cannot express his love in words, and his "Looks" of Sonnets must say it for him.  "Oh, learn to read what silent love hath writ!"  They are sent to the man who is lord of our Poet's love as his "Written Embassage," and in witness of his duty.  They are but poor representatives of what he feels towards his friend, and of what he hopes to do and dedicate to him publicly some day when his planet points on him "graciously with fair aspèct."  Then he will "dare to boast" aloud of his love and "show his head" before the literary world, where the worth of his work can be tested.

    These first 26 Sonnets contain three themes or subjects, and probably consisted of two or three "Books" illustrated, so to say, by the portrait drawn with the Poet's "Pupil Pen" when Southampton was in his eighteenth year, standing on the "top of happy hours" in all the freshness of his downy youth and dawning manly beauty.  Every word in them demands the closest scrutiny because they are personal to Shakspeare, and because it is on the ground of the Personal Sonnets that we have to make our first foothold secure.  For example, we shall find that the things which Shakspeare says he does not do in the Personal Sonnets because he is speaking to his male friend are done by a lover when addressing his lady in other Sonnets.  Thus the speaker in 21 will not pay compliments by making proud comparisons with heaven and earth and sea and all external nature, because that is lover's language—Sidney's when addressing Stella; whereas this becomes the very language of the speaker six Sonnets later on.  In Sonnets 27 and 28 the speaker says—

"I tell the Day, to please him, thou art bright,
 And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven:
 So flatter I the swart-complexioned night;
 When sparkling stars twire not, thou gild'st the even."—Sonnet 28.

And in the preceding Sonnet the speaker says—

                       "My soul's imaginary sight
 Presents thy shadow (likeness) to my sightless view,
 Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
 Makes black night beauteous and her old face new."

This is an entire reversal of what he had said six Sonnets earlier. What do such a change and contradiction mean?  Here he takes to the same language and superlative comparisons that Sidney had employed when writing to and of his "Stella," but which our Poet repudiated whilst he was addressing a man.   Now there is a change of sex.  The person described and dreamed about is a woman, as his own practice proves, according to the comparative test.

                 My soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face
        new.—Sonnet 27.

When sparkling stars twire not, thou gild'st the
        even.—Sonnet 28.
 

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night,
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear!
                                                  Romeo of Juliet.



Fair Helena, that more engilds the night
Than all yon fiery oes and eyes of light.
                                               Lysander to Helena.

We shall hear a little later of a speaker who is in disgrace with Fortune; a public man whose disgrace with Fortune is likewise public; a man that charges Fortune with being the goddess who is guilty of his "harmful deeds," his deviations from the path of rectitude, his bad name and branded brow, because Fortune who made him a public man is the cause of his manners, which are confessedly a public scandal.  Now Shakspeare's sense of the public man, the public disgrace and public scandal, can be partly gauged and judged by his sense of public honours; and in the 25th Sonnet he distinctly tells us that HIS Fortune debarred him from the triumph of "public honours" as much as from the bearing of a proud title.  Consequently he did not consider that the stage could confer such "public honours," nor that a player was a public man.  Therefore, he would not look upon himself as a public man who was in disgrace with Fortune because she had made him a player.  His Fortune smiled upon him favourably from the first; the very Fortune also that he went to London in search of, and if we are to believe him in Sonnets 25 and 32, had begun to find.  He had lately and unexpectedly found his Fortune in his good friend, to whom he is shallowly supposed to address these later complaints and wailings over his being in such woeful disgrace with Fortune.

    King Richard II in his prison reflections observes that it is not the nature of Thought to be contented.  But "thoughts tending to content flatter themselves that they are not the first of Fortune's slaves, nor shall not be the last."  This exactly describes the mental pose and method of contentment which Shakspeare adopts for himself, and tries to get adopted by his friend in Sonnet 25.  This mode of contenting Thought is the philosophy of the man who speaks in Sonnet 32 of his whole life as a "well-contented day."  Again and again the right reading of these Personal Sonnets will make the autobiographic reading of others all wrong, where the Sonnets are NOT personal to Shakspeare. The Sonnets were left with their meaning half-revealed and half-concealed.  The darkness and difficulty chiefly depend on the dramatic ones being read as personal to Shakspeare.  When we get these rightly adjusted to the speakers and circumstances by aid of the dramatic rendering then their meaning will be fully revealed, and the genius of the writer will come to the full orb for the first time in his Sonnets.


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Footnotes.

[27.](page 83)   This line could not be read whilst printed as heretofore—

"Which this, Time's pencil, or my pupil pen."

It was impossible to see what this meant.  What Shakspeare says is, that the best painter, the master pencil of the time, or his own pen of a learner, will alike fai1 to draw the Earl's lines of life as he himself can do it, by his "own sweet skill."  This pencil of the time may have been Mirevelt's; he painted the Earl's portrait in early manhood.

 



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