Massey on Shakspeare's Sonnets (6)

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-X-

PERSONAL SONNETS.

 

What is your substance? whereof are you
        made,
That millions of strange shadows on you
        tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you, but one, can every Shadow lend:
Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen's check all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new:
Speak of the spring and foison of the year:
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear,
And you in every blessed shape we know:
    In all external grace you have some part,
    But you like none, none you, for constant
            heart. (53)

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The Rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live:
The Canker-blooms have full as deep a dye,
As the perfumèd tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
When Summer's breath their maskèd buds
        discloses:
But for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwooed, and unrespected fade;
Die to themselves: Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
    And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
    When that shall fade, my verse distils your
            truth. (54)

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of Princes, shall out-live this powerful rhyme;
But you shall Shine more bright in these
        contents
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish
        time:
When wasteful Wars shall Statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall
        burn
The living record of your memory;
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find
        room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity,
That wear this world out to the ending doom:
    So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
    You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes. (55)

lf there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which labouring for invention bear amiss
The second burden of a former child!
Oh, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composèd wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or where better they,
Or whether revolution be the same;
    Oh! sure I am, the wits of former days
    To subjects worse have given admiring
            praise. (59)

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled
        shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end,
Each changing place with that which goes
        before
In sequent toil all forwards to contend:
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound:
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels on Beauty's brow;
Feeds on the rarities of Nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
    And yet, to times in hope, my verse shall
           stand,
    Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand. (60)

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all others in all worths surmount:
But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
Beaten and chopped with tanned antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity:
    'Tis thee—myself—that for myself I praise,
    Painting my age with beauty of thy days. (62)

Against my Love shall be, as I am now,
With Time's injurious hand crushed and
        o'er-worn;
When hours have drained his blood and filled
        his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful
        morn
Hath travelled on to Age's steepy night,
And all those beauties whereof now he's king,
Are vanishing or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his Spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding Age's cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet Love's beauty, though my Lover's life:
    His beauty shall in these black lines be
            seen,
    And they shall live, and he in them still
            green. (63)

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich, proud cost of outworn buried age:
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store:
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That time will come, and take my Love away:
    This thought is as a death, which cannot
            choose
    But weep to have that which it fears to
            lose. (64)

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless
        sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall Summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
Oh fearful meditation! where, alack!
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie
        hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot
        back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
    Oh none, unless this miracle have might,
    That in black ink my love may still shine
            bright. (65)

 

    Shakspeare's argument for marriage would naturally lapse when his friend Southampton had fallen in love with Elizabeth Vernon, and was only too desirous of marrying her as soon as possible.  As it did.  Then the vicarious Sonnets began to tell the love-story; but the writing had to be deciphered reversely in the Dramatic Mirror, and could not be directly read.

    The "Sugared Sonnets," that is, Sonnets which preserved the sweets of love poetry, were written for and known amongst the Poet's "private friends."  Next to Southampton, who supplied his own arguments for dramatic treatment, the chief reader of the Sonnets would now be Elizabeth Vernon, the most interested and delighted of the private friends.  Shakspeare now saw and sang of Southampton for more than himself; saw him with the lady looking through his eyes, and sang of him with her looking over the words. And how she would love the friend who had thus admonished Southampton in lines to doat on—

"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."

These warm expressions in praise of the young man's beauty, his mental accomplishments, his attractive grace of manner, his constancy in love, are no longer to be uttered by the Poet for himself alone.  He speaks for another loving listener now.  He is like one who at a banquet returns thanks for the ladies.  He loves, admires, and finds expression for, both sexes.  Thus in Sonnet 53 Southampton is addressed on behalf of the two sexes, and described as Adonis for the lady and Helen for the friend,—that is the warrant for applying the bi-sexual imagery.  It is as her lover that Shakspeare lauds his friend with all the more emphasis and fervour.

    The new theme added is the lover's truth.  The verses in which his beauty had been preserved are now employed to distil his truth. "Oh, how much more" than all the outward beauty is that "sweet ornament which Truth doth give!"  But what truth?  not mere unfailing patronage of the Poet, Playwright, or male friend.  It was not for that he was to live in these Sonnets and "dwell in lovers' eyes," (55) until the day of "ending doom," but as the lover who was faithful to his lady's love in spite of Time, and Fortune, and enmity, and all opposing powers.  That is the truth the Poet was to make immortal, the jewel destined for his friend's eternal wear, which was dropped, and has been long-lost at the bottom of the well in these Sonnets.

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-XI-

DRAMATIC SONNETS.

Elizabeth Vernon's sadness for her lover's
reckless course of life.

Elizabeth Vernon
Countess of Southampton
(1572? - 1655?)

 

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,—
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily foresworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by Limping sway disabled,
And Art made tongue-tied by Authority,
And Folly, doctor-like, controlling Skill,
And simple truth, miscalled simplicity,
And captive Good attending captain Ill: [49]
    Tired with all these, from these I would be
            gone,
    Save that to die, I leave my Love alone! (66)

Ah! wherefore with infection should he live,
And with his presence grace impiety,
That Sin by him advantage should achieve,
And lace itself with his society?
Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
And steal dead seeming of his living lone?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?
Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is,
Beggared of blood to blush through lively
        veins?
For she hath no exchequer quite but his,
And, proud of many, lives upon his gains:
    O! him she stores, to show what wealth
            she had
    In days long since, before these last so bad. (67)

Thus is his cheek the map of days out-worn,
When Beauty lived and died as flowers do now,
Before these bastard signs of fair were born,
Or durst inhabit on a living brow;
Before the golden tresses of the dead,
The right of sepulchres, were shorn away
To live a second life on second head,
E'er Beauty's dead fleece made another gay:
In him those holy antique hours are seen,
Without all ornament, itself and true,
Making no summer of another's green,
Robbing no old to dress his beauty new;
    And him as for a map doth Nature store,
    To show false Art what beauty was of yore. (68)

Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend:
All tongues—the voice of souls—give thee that due,
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend;
Thine outward thus with outward praise is
        crown'd;
But those same tongues that give thee so thine own,
In other accents do this praise confound,
By seeing farther than the eye hath shown:
They look into the beauty of thy mind,
And that in guess they measure by thy deeds;
Then (churls) their thoughts, although their eyes
        were kind,
To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds!
    But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
    The solve is this—that thou dost common
            grow. (69)

 

    If Shakspeare were the speaker in this group of Sonnets they might be suspected of belonging to what has been termed his "unhappy period," during which he wrote his profoundest Plays.  Which "unhappy period," when judged by the Sonnets, must have been somewhat frequent, or else continued very long.  Here the speaker is dejected enough to wish for death; unhappy enough to long for it and to cry for it—for "restful death I cry."  The speaker is weary of beholding the wrongs that are done, the general wryness of things, and sick of seeing how desert is born in beggary, "needy nothing trimmed in jollity," faith foresworn, gilded honours shamefully misplaced, maiden virtue strumpeted, strength disabled by "limping sway," art made tongue-tied by Authority, and other things that were common enough in any Court, and not limited to any particular time.  But the wearisomeness of life which suggests these excuses has a more particular cause than that of things in general.  These are but as the shadowy imagery of the feeling of sadness thus externalized, and attired, as it were, in the blots and blemishes of the social state.

    These facts did not constitute the root of the matter—the truth that was worth dying for, or wanting to die.  Nor was the desire to die and get out of such a world in the least like Shakspeare, as we know him from the Plays.  This world was good enough for him. His philosophy of life has no such effeminateness.

    There is a root of bitterness beyond all these.  And yet this is not in the speaker's own life, or deeds, or personal character.  The unhappiness is not self caused, nor is it felt on behalf of self.  This cry for restful death is not on account of any sins committed by Shakspeare even if he were the speaker.  The cause of it all is the person addressed—

"Ah! wherefore with infection should he live?"

This desire to close the eyes in death, and get rid of all the sorry contrasts to be seen in life, is to shut out the sight of this the saddest of all contrasts—this of the person addressed dwelling in infectious society.

"Ah! wherefore with infection should he live,
 And with his presence grace impiety;
 That sin by him advantage should achieve,
 And lace itself with his society?"

The pity of it is, that he who was the "world's fresh ornament" should be spending his days, wasting his life, and shedding the bloom of his manly beauty, to give a breath of health and a touch of nature to a disreputable lot who paint and decorate themselves with graveyard hair.  Possibly reports have been brought by some Iachimo of the lover's gallantries among the painted Jays of Italy, or the devotees of "false Art" in Paris.  However this may be, the cause of the speaker's wretchedness is the doings of the person addressed.  And the explanation is that he has been living in infectious company, and consequently grown common in the mouths of men.  The speaker holds him to be true at heart in spite of all that is done by him, or said about him, although others will judge the inner man by his outer deeds, and these are of a kind to add the rank smell of weeds to that flower which had been the glory of his spring.  Now the person here addressed, who is the cause, or whose "deeds" have given cause, for such mental misery as could make the speaker almost despair and cry for death, becomes the speaker in a group of later Sonnets, where he responds and replies to the very charges here made and implied.

    Thus there are two speakers, whoever they may be, and the fact suffices to establish the dramatic nature of these Sonnets.  But the speaker who replies to the charges will prove absolutely that it is not Shakspeare who now bewails the evil courses that are yet to be confessed!  He will there address the present speaker as his "Sum of Good," his Rose! his "best of love," his "Cherubin," his Divine love, to whom he was affianced or confined; his "All-the-world," his "All," because he will then be addressing a woman who is his affianced mistress; and he replies charge by charge, and word by word, to the speaker of the foregoing Sonnets.  He admits having dwelt in infectious society, and offers to drink vinegar or "potions of Eysel" to disinfect himself.  He confesses to the "harmful deeds" that have made him the subject of public scandal.  He acknowledges all, and more than he has been charged with, he fully identifies himself as the cause of all and more unhappiness than was previously expressed in these and other Sonnets.  He confesses and regrets the blots and stains on his character, but protests that, despite these blots, he cannot "so preposterously be stained" as to "leave for nothing all thy sum of good."

    Now, as these later Sonnets are not addressed in reply to Shakspeare, but to a woman, it follows that the person who utters the charges should be the woman, and not Shakspeare: thus the drama would be most perfectly complete.  It is more dramatic and more credible to think that Shakspeare should only be the writer in both cases, leaving the two lovers to speak their parts, and so complete the circle in a natural embrace.

    Therefore I hold the present speaker who wishes for death, except for having to leave her lover alone in the world, who so sadly bewails his harmful deeds and his dwelling with infection, is none other than Elizabeth Vernon, one of the two chief Dramatis Personæ of Shakspeare's Sonnets.


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-XII-

A PERSONAL SONNET.

    The following Sonnet is personal to the poet speaking without the mask—

                A PERSONAL SONNET.

         Shakspeare in defence of his friend.

"That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
 For slander's mark was ever yet the fair,
 The ornament of beauty is suspect,
 A Crow that flies in Heaven's sweetest air!
 So thou be good, slander doth but approve
 Thy worth the greater, being wooed of Time;
 For canker Vice the sweetest buds doth love,
 And thou present'st a pure unstainèd prime:
 Thou hast passed by the ambush of young days,
 Either not assailed, or victor being charged
 Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
 To tie up Envy evermore enlarged:
     If some suspect of ill masked not thy show
    Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts should'st
            owe." (70)

    This Sonnet I read as the Poet's comment on the foregoing subject.  It is written upon an occasion when the Earl has been suspected and slandered, and Shakspeare does not consider him to blame.  Suspicion has been at work, and the Poet tells his friend that for one like him to be suspected and slandered is no marvel whatever.  Suspicion is the ornament of beauty, and is sure to be found in its near neighbourhood; it is the crow that flies in the upper air.  A handsome young fellow like the Earl is sure to be the object of suspicion and envy.  He has been suspected, and the suspicion has given rise to a slander.  Therefore the Poet treats the charge of the jealousy Sonnets as a slander.  Sonnet 122 may throw a little light upon it.  In that the Earl aims at some Court lady who had slandered him, and on his frailty been a frailer spy.  This excited the jealousy of Elizabeth Vernon.  We saw in a previous group that the speaker herself was not sure if her suspicions were true—did not know if the absent ones were triumphing in their treachery—and Shakspeare in person implies that they were not.  He speaks also to the Earl's general character on the subject; says his young friend "presents a pure unstained prime" of life; alludes to his having been assailed by a woman, and come off a "victor being charged."  In the previous Sonnets, as we saw, it was a woman who had wooed and tried to tempt the Earl from his mistress.  But, pure and good as he may be, and blameless as his life has been, this is not enough to tie up envy.  This Sonnet, then, illustrates the story of Elizabeth Vernon's jealousy.  It gives us the Poet's own view of the affair, together with his personal conclusions; it is the Poet's general summing-up in defence of his friend.


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-XIII-

PERSONAL SONNETS.

 

No longer mourn for me, when I am dead,
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe:
O if—I say—you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay:
    Lest the wise world should look into your
            moan,
    And mock you with me after I am gone. (7l)

O, lest the World should task you to recite
What merit lived in me, that you should lave
After my death, dear Love, forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove;
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O lest your true love may seem false in this,
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you!
    For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
    And so should you, to love things nothing
            worth. (72)

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the
        cold
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds
        sang!
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest!
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by:
    This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love
            more strong
    To love that well which thou must lose ere
            long. (73)

But be contented! when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay:
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The Earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me!
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms—my body being dead—
The coward-conquest of a wretch's knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered:
    The worth of that is that which it contains,
    And that is this, and this with thee
            remains. (74)

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation, or quick change?
Why, with the time, do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds
        strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did
        proceed?
O know, sweet Love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
    For as the sun is daily new and old,
    So is my love still telling what is told. (76)

Thy Glass will show thee how thy beauties
        wear,
Thy Dial how the precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this Book this learning may'st thou taste!
The wrinkles which thy Glass will truly show
Of mouthèd graves will give thee memory;
Thou by thy, Dial's shady stealth may'st know
Time's thievish progress to eternity:
Look, what thy memory cannot contain
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt
        find
Those children nursed—delivered from thy
        brain—
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind:
    These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
    Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy Book. (77)

 

This is a group of very touching Sonnets.  Nowhere else shall we draw nearer to the poet in his own person.  They look as if written in contemplation of death.  They have a touch of physical languor—the tinge of thought at the last parting.  And if they were composed at such a time, they show us how limitedly autobiographic the Sonnets were intended to be.  He did not write them either to pourtray himself or express his personal opinions.  He keeps strictly to the subject, the business in hand, in accordance with the limits of the Sonnet.  Therefore we shall look in vain for his religious views when he stands apparently in presence of death. We might say that he is profoundly reticent, cruelly economical in revelation of himself, only it was not his object to reveal himself to us, or tell us what he thought in his own person.  He took no thought of the morrow for himself.  He did not seek to promulgate opinions nor to proselytize.  He wrote for his own particular friend, but was entirely oblivious of any general reader.

    The Sonnets, so far, were Southampton's; they were written to him, written for him, written of him, and they are to remain his "gentle monument" for all time.  Shakspeare could not protest more emphatically against the autobiographic delusion than he does here without intending it.  He never speaks of himself except in relation to Southampton; and here his request is that, should he die, his friend will not mourn for him any longer even than the death-bell tolls.  He would rather be forgotten than his friend should grieve for him when he is gone.  Also, he begs that the Earl will not so much as mention his name, lest the keen hard world should see the disparity betwixt what the friend in his kindness may have thought of the Poet and its own shrewder estimate; for if the world should task the living to tell what merit there was in him that is dead, the Earl will be put to shame, or be driven to speak falsely of one whom he loved truly.

    The mood in Sonnet 73 is akin to Macbeth's when he says—

                                        "My way of life
 Is fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf,"

and is therefore indicative of failing health.  It denotes illness rather than age; and four of these Sonnets may very well have been the Poet's reply to a kind inquiry from Southampton concerning his health at the time of some break down from over-work.  The Poet is urging excuses with accustomed modesty, and in case he should die, he is making the best of it for his friend.  He decries his own appearance as one that sees himself in the glass when worn and broken by suffering.  He feels his life to be in the wane.  The boughs are growing bare where the sweet birds lately sang.  The twilight is creeping over all, cold and gray.  The fire that he has warmed himself by is sinking; there is more white ash than ruddy glow.  All this he urges in case the flame should go out suddenly. He is minimizing any cause there might be for mourning.  The Sonnet concludes with another excuse.  Because this is so, and the Earl sees it, that is why his love grows stronger, fearing lest it should lose him.  "But do not mind," he says, "though I should die, yet shall I be with you; I shall live on in the lines which I leave; these shall stay with you as a memorial of our love.  When you look at these Sonnets, you will see the very part of me that was consecrated to you.  Earth can but take its own as food for the worms.   My spirit is yours, and that remains with you."  In Sonnet 76 (p. 155), there is a kind of "hush!"  He speaks of his friend so plainly, that "every word doth almost tell my name," and from whom the Sonnets proceeded, as if that were self-forbidden.  He assures his friend of immortality, he speaks of having an interest in the verses, for they contain the "better part" of himself consecrated to his friend, but he does not contemplate living in them by name.

    These Sonnets have the authority of parting words, and that in a double sense; for not only are they written when Shakspeare was ill, as I understand him, but they are written when he fancied the Southampton series was just upon finished.  How, then, was the immortality to be conferred?  How was the monument erected by Shakspeare to be known as the Earl of Southampton's?  How were the many proud boasts to be fulfilled?  In this way I imagine. Sidney had called his prose work The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, and in all likelihood, when these Sonnets were written, it was Shakspeare's intention, if they ever were published, to print them as the Earl of Southampton's.  The fact of his having written in the Earl's name points to such a conclusion.  This view serves to explain how it was that the Poet could care so little for fame; seem so unconscious of the value of his own work, and yet make so many proud boasts of immortality.  It is whilst fighting for his friend that we have this escape of consciousness, if it amounts to that, not whilst speaking of himself, nor whilst contemplating living by name, and the Sonnets are to be immortal because they are the Earl of Southampton's, rather than on account of their being William Shakspeare's.

    The subject of the writer's death is limited to four of these six Sonnets, ending with number 74.  In number 77 we see the Poet is writing in a Book of Sonnets that belonged to his friend.  This book was referred to in Sonnet 37, where, as we saw, the Poet was no longer to write on any common or "vulgar paper," but in the book which Southampton had provided for the special purpose.  In Sonnet 77 Shakspeare speaks of it as "this book" which he was writing in at the time, and he also calls it "THY Book."  He wants his friend to write in the Book of Sonnets as a means of drawing him out of self, and set him brooding on his thoughts of love instead of grizzling over his ill fortunes and bad luck.  Exercise your mind in writing, he says—

"The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear;
 Look what thy memory cannot contain
 Commit to these waste blanks."

If he will do this his book will be much enriched.  This, as I understand the matter, was the Book of Southampton's Sonnets, for which he supplied his own arguments, subjects, or themes, and Shakspeare whilst writing in it here identifies it as Southampton's own.

    It has often been a matter of wonder how Shakspeare could have drawn upon the Diana of Montemayer so long before a translation was printed in 1598.  But I suspect that Shakspeare himself had some knowledge of Spanish, at least enough to turn a proverb to account.  He appears to render or adapt one when writing Sonnet 110, where the speaker says of his love, "Now all is done have what shall have no end;" the Spanish proverb has it, "Amor sin fin, no tiene fin"—love without end hath no end; and in this Sonnet 77 he seems to have had in mind the saying, Escritura es buena memoria,—writing is good memory.


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-XIV-

SHAKSPEARE AND
MARLOWE.





 

Christopher Marlowe
(1564 - 1593)
(portrait apocryphal)

 

So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse,
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse!
Thine eyes, that taught the Dumb on high to sing,
And heavy Ignorance aloft to flee,
Have added feathers to the Learnèd's wing,
And given Grace a double majesty:
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee:
In others' works thou dost but mend the style,
And Arts with thy sweet graces gracèd be:
    But thou art all my Art, and dost advance
    As high as Learning my rude ignorance. (78)

Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace;
But now my gracious numbers are decayed,
And my sick Muse doth give another place!
I grant, sweet Love, thy lovely argument
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen;
Yet what of thee thy Poet doth invent,
He robs thee of, and pays it thee again:
He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word
From thy behaviour; beauty doth he give
And found it in thy cheek; he can afford
No praise to thee but what in thee doth live:
    Then thank him not for that which he doth say,
    Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost
            pay. (79)

O, how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your fame!
But since your worth—wide as the ocean is—
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy Bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear:
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wrecked, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building, and of goodly pride:
    Then if he thrive, and I be cast away,
    The worst was this; my love was my
            decay. (80)

Or I shall live your Epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten;
From hence your memory Death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten:
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombèd in men's eyes shall lie:
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read;
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
    You still shall live—such virtue hath my
            Pen—
    Where breath most breathes—even in the
            mouths of men. (81)

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,
And therefore may'st without attaint o'erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every Book:
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise,
And therefore art enforced to seek anew

Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days!
And do so, Love! yet when they have devised
What strainèd touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathised
In true-plain words, by thy true-telling friend;
    And their gross painting might be better used
    Where cheeks need blood; in thee it is
            abused. (82)

I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set!
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a Poet's debt!
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow:
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb:
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life and bring a tomb:
    There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
    Than both your Poets can in praise devise. (83)

Who is it that says most? which can say more
Than this rich praise—that you alone are you?
In whose confine immurèd is the store
Which should example where your equal grew!
Lean penury within that Pen doth dwell,
That to his subject lends not some small glory;
But he that writes of you, if he can tell
That you are you, so dignifies his story;
Let him but copy what in you is writ,
Not making worse what Nature made so clear,
And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,
Making his style admired everywhere!
    You to your beauteous blessings add a curse,
    Being fond on praise, which makes your
            praises worse. (84)

My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still,
While comments of your praise, richly compiled,
Reserve their character with golden quill,
And precious phrase by all the Muses filed!
I think good thoughts, while others write good
        words,
And, like unlettered clerk, still cry "Amen"
To every hymn that able spirit affords
In polished form of well-refinèd pen:
Hearing you praised I say, "'Tis so, 'tis true,"
And to the most of praise add something more;
But that is in my thought, whose love to you,
Though words come hindmost, holds his rank
        before:
    Then others for the breath of words respect,
    Me for my dumb thoughts speaking in effect. (85)

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
Was it his spirit by Spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
Giving him aid, my verse astonishèd!
He nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,
As victors of my silence cannot boast,
I was not sick of any fear from thence,
    But when your countenance filled up his line,
    Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine. (86)

 

    This is one of the most interesting groups of Sonnets that are Personal to Shakspeare himself.  The subject is those other poets and writers who have followed his example in celebrating the praise of the Earl his friend, or in seeking to publish under the prestige of his name.  John Florio dedicated his World of Words to the Earl of Southampton in 1598 with the following frank confession of the support he had received.  He says—"In truth I acknowledge an entire debt, not only of my best knowledge, but of all; yea, of more than I know or can, to your bounteous Lordship, in whose pay and patronage I have lived some years, to whom I owe and vow the years I have to live.  But, as to me and many more, the glorious and gracious sunshine of your Honour hath infused light and life."

    This shows Southampton's patronage of literary men to have been extensive and well-known.  It is not one poet only of whom the speaker is jealous, or professes his jealousy; he says he has so often called on the Earl's name, and received so much inspiration for his verse, that every "alien pen" and outsider have followed suit, and sought to set forth their poesy under his patronage.  It was his eyes (his countenance) that taught the Dumb on high to sing; and Ignorance to soar aloft when he promoted the publication of Venus and Adonis, and was pleased with Shakspeare's dedication. The Poet accepts the personification of himself as Ignorance which had been flung at him by Nash when he described him as one of the "Unlearned Sots," and a man of a "little country grammar knowledge."  He accepts it, and makes a reply to his dear friend that is both pathetic and witty.  Not only has Southampton encouraged Shakspeare the ignorant to break silence and appear in print for the first time,—made "heavy Ignorance aloft to flee"—he has also added feathers to the wing of the "Learned," and "given grace a double majesty."  But he pleads—"Be most proud of what I write, because it is so purely your own.  In the work of others you mend the style, but you are all my art, and you set my rude ignorance as high as the skill of the most learned.  Whilst I alone sang of you my verse had all your grace, but now my Muse gives place to another, and my numbers are decayed.  I know well enough that your virtue and kindness deserve the labour of a worthier pen, the praise of a better Poet; yet what can the best of poets do?  He can only repay back to you that which he borrows from you. I feel very diffident," he says, "in writing of you when I know that a far better Poet is spending his strength in your praise, and singing at his best to make me silent.  But since you are so gracious, there is room on the broad ocean of your worth for my small bark as well as for his of proud sail and lofty build.  And if he ride in safety whilst I am wrecked, the worst is this, it was my love that made me venture forth, and caused my destruction."  He then questions himself as to the cause of his recent silence.  His Muse is mannerly, and holds her tongue whilst better poets are singing.  He thinks good thoughts whilst they speak good words.  He is like the unlettered clerk, who by rote cries "Amen" to what his superior says.  "Respect others then," he urges, "for what words are worth, but me for my dumb thoughts, too full for utterance!  As I am true in love I can but write truthfully.  Let them say more in praise of you who are expecting to hear their words re-echoed in praise of themselves.  I am not writing with an eye to the sale of my Sonnets.  They are written for love alone!  I never could see that you needed flattery, and therefore did not think of painting nature.  I found that you exceeded the utmost a poet could say.  Therefore have I been silent, and you have imputed this silence for my sin, which shall be my glory, because I have let nature speak for itself; there lives more life in one of your eyes alone than both your poets could put into any number of their verses.  Who is it that says most?  Which of us can say more than that you are you, and that you stand alone?  It is a poor pen that can lend nothing to its subject; but in writing of you, it will do well if it can fairly copy what is already writ by Nature's own hand.  The worst of it is, you are not satisfied with the truth thus simply told, you are fond of being written about, and this makes it hard for those who can only say the same old thing of you over and over again.  I admit you were not married to my Muse, and that you have perfect freedom to accept as many dedications as you please.  Your worth is beyond the reach of my words, and no doubt you are forced to seek for something novel.  And do so, dear friend; yet when they have painted your portrait in flaunting colours, I shall say your truth was best mirrored in my unaffected truthfulness.

    To get at the life within life of these Sonnets we must look closer into this group, with a full belief that when our poet used particular words he freighted them with a particular meaning; definiteness of purpose and truth of detail being the first recommendation and the last perfection of his Sonnets.  The pen with which he wrote for his patron was as pointed as that with which he wrote for his Theatre.

    In the first Sonnet of this group Shakspeare is passing in review those writers who are under the patronage of the Earl, and he specifies two or three of these by personifying certain of their well-known qualities; he is telling the Earl what his influence has wrought in divers ways—

"Thine eyes, that taught the Dumb on high to sing,
 And heavy Ignorance aloft to flee,
 Have added feathers to the Learned's wing,
 And given Grace a double majesty."

Shakspeare stands for Ignorance confessed.  He also likens himself to the "unlettered clerk" who responds with his "Amen" to all that the learned may say in praise of his friend.  Tom Nash had posed himself as one of the Learned in opposition to the supposed illiterate Player.  Tom Nash also wielded an "Alien pen" in the spirit of an Ishmaelite.  His hand was against every man, including Shakspeare.  He it was who set up so conspicuously for "Learning;" he was one of the learned sort; and he was hitting continually at those who had not received a scholastic nurture, from which, however, he himself had been weaned before his time.  In his Pierce Penilesse, p. 42, he exclaims, "Alas, poor Latinless Authors!"  In his epistle to the Astrophel and Stella of Sidney, he says, speaking of the works of Sextus Empedocles, "they have been lately translated into English for the benefit of unlearned writers" (not readers).  The Nash and Greene clique had been the first to attack Shakspeare on the score of his little country grammar; his education at a country Grammar-school; and charged him with plucking the feathers from the wing of Learning for the purpose of beautifying himself—the upstart Crow!  And Nash is here personified in his own chosen image.  The Poet makes an allusion which the Earl and his friends would appreciate, and he covertly returns the borrowed plumes.  He says, in effect, that the Earl has, in patronising Nash, returned those feathers to the wing of Learning, which he, Shakspeare, had been publicly charged by Greene and others with purloining.  In a second allusion he says the Earl's favour has set the rude "ignorance" at which his rivals laughed as high as the learning of which they boasted.

    In Pierce-Penilesse, his supplication to the Devil, we shall find that towards the end of 1592, Nash had not only found a Patron to praise, but had been in some personal companionship with "my Lord"—had been staying with him in the country for "fear of infection."  This was at Croydon, where his play of Will Summers' last Will and Testament was privately produced in the autumn of 1592, to all appearance, under the patronage of Southampton.  The good luck has somewhat softened his "Alien pen" of the earlier pages of that work, which is bitter in its abuse of patrons.  At page 42 Nash writes, "If any Mecænas bind me to him by his bounty, or extend some round liberality to me worth the speaking of, I will do him as much honour as any poet of my beardless years shall in England."  He made his supplication to the Devil because he had not then found his Patron Saint.  At page 90 he has discovered his man.  He calls him "one of the bright stars of nobility, and glistering attendants on the true Diana."  He is also "the matchless image of honour, and magnificent rewarder of virtue; Jove's eagle-born Ganymede; thrice noble Amyntas; most courteous Amyntas!"  Todd supposes that Ferdinando, Earl of Derby, was meant; because Spenser, in his Collin Clout's come home again, calls him by the common pastoral name of "Amyntas."  But Amyntas was a name applied to any patron or friend of poets after the Macedonian king who befriended Æschylus.  Todd might have seen that Spenser does not confine the title to the Earl of Derby. [50]  Nor is there anything known to connect Nash with this Earl, as there is with Shakspeare's patron and friend.  The description fits no one so perfectly as it does the young Earl of Southampton.  It sets before us the very image of youth which Shakspeare calls more lovely than Adonis; Ganymede having been the most beautiful of mortal youths, Jove's boy-beloved; the Court's "fresh ornament" of Shakspeare's first Sonnet is here one of the "glistering attendants on the true Diana."  The "matchless image of Honour" corresponds exactly to Southampton, the anagram made out of whose name was the "Stamp of Honour."  Also, he is supposed not to have been heard of as yet out of the echo of the Court.  We know that Nash was under the patronage of Shakspeare's friend.  In the year 1594, he dedicated his Life of Jack Wilton to the Earl of Southampton, with a reference to the difference betwixt it and earlier writings, and this work, though not published until 1594, was dated 1593.  So that I can have no doubt of Pierce Penilesse being really inscribed to the Earl of Southampton in person if not by name, or that Nash's was the "Alien pen" that had followed Shakspeare in writing privately to the Earl.  What other "poesy" Nash may have sought to "disperse" under the Earl's patronage I know not.  He must have written things that have not come down to us.  He informs us, in his Pierce Penilesse, that his Muse was despised and neglected, his pains not regarded, or but slightly rewarded.  Meres places him with the poets of the time, as one of the best for comedy.  Harvey calls him a Poet, and Drayton accords him a leaf of the Laurel.  I conjecture that the Sonnet at the end of Pierce Penilesse is addressed to the Earl of Southampton,[51] and that this method of passing off his poetry gives the aptness to Shakspeare's use of the word "disperse."  It may be the "dedicated words that writers used" likewise contains a hit at Nash's eulogistic hyperbole.  The Life of Jack Wilton was inscribed with a most high-flown dedication to the Earl of Southampton, whom he called "a dear lover and cherisher, as well of the lovers of poets as of poets themselves;" and he ad adds, "Incomprehensible is the height of your spirit, both in heroical resolution and matters of conceit. Unreprievably perisheth that book, whatsoever to wastepaper, which on the diamond rock of your judgment disastrously chanceth to be shipwrecked."

    Another specimen of over-reaching laudation may be seen in Nash's "dedicatory Words" to Sidney's Arcadia (Quarto, 1591), when he inscribed that work to the Countess of Pembroke, and where he certainly employed

"The dedicated words which Writers use
 Of their fair subject, blessing every Book."

Whoever Amyntas may have been, Tom Nash was one of the "Learned" who wielded an "Alien Pen."  But the chief interest concerning the rival writers centres in that man who is the other poet of the group; the other poet of two where Shakspeare as writer is one.  Mr. Brown remarks of the rival poet in Sonnet 86, "who this rival poet was is beyond my conjecture; nor does it matter!  These allusions to the now forgotten rival are vague and unavailing.  Nothing can be traced from them towards his discovery."  [52]  But, it does matter immensely.  There is no fact more important for those who value those dates and data which are our sole criteria of the truth.  "Is it Marlowe?" asks Professor Dowden.  "His verse was proud and full, and the creator of Faustus may well have had dealings with his own Mephistopheles, but Marlowe died in May, 1593 (should be June 16th, 1593), the year of Venus and Adonis."  That is the reply.  It cannot be Marlowe, because Herbert stops the way!  Here, he continues, "we are forced to confess that the Poet remains as dim a figure as the Patron." [53]  The dimness, however, is not in the look of either Poet or Patron, but in the mode of eyeing their figures!

    Forced to confess, because stultified by a false Theory, which prevents them from facing or recognizing the facts with which the Sonnets abound.  The Poet cannot be Marlowe, and the patron at the same time be Herbert, as he was but 13 years of age when Marlowe died! Therefore those who are determined that Shakspeare's dear friend shall be Herbert and not Southampton are compelled to set up Chapman, or Daniel, or John Davies, or Dante, or anybody, in order that they may get rid of Marlowe, and a definite date.  At sight of any and every fact that is fatal to them there is no resource left but to stick their heads in the sand after this most preposterous fashion!

    For all who can weigh evidence and are free to do so, it will have been demonstrated that Southampton, and not Herbert, was the first friend of Shakspeare who is celebrated in the Sonnets.  This makes it possible for Marlowe to be the other Poet who is acknowledged to have been Shakspeare's great rival.  The Patron has "given grace a double majesty."  His "eyes" that made the Dumb to sing, heavy Ignorance to mount, have added feathers to the wing of "Learning" itself, given to grace a double majesty.  It is a somewhat singular expression.  The "double majesty" is very weighty to apply to such a word as "grace!"  It would not be used without an intended stress. A poet is here praised for the sensuous grace of his poetry and majesty of his music.  The chief characteristics of his poetry are that it is sensuous and majestic; the very qualities of all others that we, following the Elizabethans, associate with the march of Marlowe's "mighty line!"  Nothing could better give us our Poet's view of himself and the rival in Sonnet 80 than the image drawn from Drake and the Spanish Dons; afterwards used by Fuller in his description of Shakspeare and Ben Jonson.  His rival is here represented as the great portly Spanish galleon, of tall build and full sail, and goodly pride, and Shakspeare is the small trim bark—the "saucy bark" that can float with the "shallowest help;" venture daringly on the broad ocean, and skip lightly round the greater bulk of his rival.  Marlowe was a "Master of Arts," and doubtless proud of his title. Nash seems to have felt his own failure to become one, and in his Epistle to Greene's Menaphon makes frequent reference to "Art-Masters."  This fact is also to be found in Shakspeare's Sonnet.  He acknowledged the Master of Arts when he sang to Southampton—

"And Arts with thy sweet graces gracèd be."

And he continues—

"But thou art all my Art, and dost advance
 As high as Learning my rude Ignorance."

That is, Southampton's patronage and friendship made Shakspeare equal to either the Man of Learning, who was not M.A., or the Man of Arts, who was.  He accepts because he replies to Nash's impersonation of Ignorance applied to the man of a little "Country Grammar" in the year 1590.

    Shakspeare makes a further and a prouder answer in public.  When he enters the arena with his Venus and Adonis as his offering to Southampton, and glancing in the direction of Nash and Marlowe says, "Let the mob marvel at things base, to me also golden-locked Apollo shall supply cups filled with the Water of Castaly."  Which quotation from Ovid also relates to the same rivalry that is expressed in the Sonnets, and must have been chosen for the purpose of reply.

     If we believe that Shakspeare had any power of compelling spirits to appear dramatically—any mastery of stroke in rendering human likeness—any exact and cunning use of epithet—how can we doubt that the name to be written under this portrait depicted by Shakspeare should be that of Christopher Marlowe?

"Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
 Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you,
 That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
 Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
 Was it his spirit by Spirits taught to write
 Above a mortal pitch that struck me dead?
 No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
 Giving him aid, my verse astonishèd!
 He, nor that affable fan familiar Ghost
 Which nightly gulls him with intelligence
,
 As victors of my silence cannot boast ;
 I was not sick of any fear from thence:
     But when your countenance filled up his line,
     Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine!"

    It should be remembered that we are dealing with the Poet who held the mirror up to nature, and reflected its features more clearly, and surely, than any other man.  But nowhere has he mirrored the facts more recognizably than he has done here in reflecting the main features of Marlowe and his work.  Not to see this betrays such a woeful want of insight as must prove quite fatal to all critical claims.  Shakspeare speaks of Marlowe and identifies him with the "Familiar" Spirit, Mephistopheles, just as Thorpe does when he dedicates the translation of Lucan's first book to Edward Blunt, and alludes to Marlowe as a "familiar Spirit," and says of him, "This spirit was sometime a familiar of your own."  Then the conditions upon which Marlowe's Faustus sells his soul are that Mephistopheles shall become his familiar spirit, to execute all his commands, do all he desires, and be a very plausible familiar ghost indeed.  Mephistopheles asks Faustus, "What wouldst thou have me do?"  The reply is, "I charge thee wait upon me whilst I live." Mephistopheles promises to be his slave and wait upon him! Whether invisible or apparent he is to be at the beck and call of Faustus, and says he will give him more than he has wit to ask. A very plausible familiar ghost or attendant spirit!  "Mephistopheles" as a "familiar Spirit" was also a slang word among the topers of the time!

    In his Introduction to the Leopold Shakspeare, Mr. Furnivall tells his readers that the line "The proud full sail of his great verse" probably applies to the swelling hexameters of Chapman's Englishing of Homer.  In the first place, Chapman's lines are not hexameters; and in the next, they were altogether too late for recognition by Shakspeare in this group of Sonnets!  But let that pass.  Mr. Furnivall continues, "His spirit by Spirits taught to write" may well refer to Chapman's claim that Homer's spirit inspired him, a claim made, no doubt, in words, before its appearance in print in his Tears of Peace.

    In the Inductio to the Tears of Peace the Spirit of Homer is supposed to say—

"I am that spirit Elysian,
 That ..... did thy bosom fill
 With such a flood of soul, that thou wert fain,
 With exclamations of her rapture then,
 To vent it to the echoes of the vale . . . . .
                              and thou didst inherit
 My trice sense, for the time then, in my spirit;
 And I invisibly went prompting thee."

He had also written in his Tears of Peace (p, 123, col. 2)—

"Still being persuaded by the shameless night,
 That all my reading, writing, all my pains,
 Are serious trifles, and the idle veins
 Of an unthrifty angel that deludes
 My simple fancy
."

These, says Mr. Furnivall, "These make a better case for Chapman being the rival, than has been made for any one else."  I do not cite Mr. Furnivall as an authority but as an example.  The 'Tears of Peace' was not published until the year 1609!  And the Sonnets of Shakspeare were known to Meres in 1598.  This chasm is crossed by Mr. Furnivall with all the indifference of a fly, and a passing "no doubt" that Chapman had set up a claim years before, and no doubt that Shakspeare had heard of it!  But the Rival Poet "was taught by spirits to write," not by Homer.  Also the one particular spirit mentioned as the "Affable familiar Ghost" can scarcely be the truthful spirit of Homer inspiring Chapman, because it gulls the Poet nightly with false intelligence.  Chapman is only being trailed like a red herring across the scent to mislead the unwary; yet on the strength of this surmise Mr. Furnivall can ask, "Is it possible that Shakspeare's envy of Chapman had anything to do with Shakspeare's deliberate debasing of the heroes of that Homer whom Chapman Englished?"  No, it is not possible. The suggestion is so dishonouring, so shameful, it makes one blush as if from a blow.  This unworthy imputation is quite worthy, however, of the theory in support of which it was hazarded.  First, the friend of Shakspeare is falsely assumed to have been William Herbert.  Next it is asserted that Marlowe cannot be the Rival Poet, because he died in June 1593, when Herbert was only 13 years old.  Thirdly, it is assumed that Chapman was the rival Poet, without the slightest chance of substantiating it, because some one must be put in the place of Marlowe, as the result of Herbert's being substituted for Southampton.  Lastly, the friendly rivalry for the Patron's favour is transformed into envy,—envy of Chapman felt by Shakspeare!—and then it is asked whether the great blithe-hearted Poet of the sweetest nature known could be mean and malign enough to have debased and blackened Homer's heroes many years afterwards, because he was inspired by a long-abiding spirit of revenge against Chapman.  Such is the overshadowing curse of a misleading theory that darkens the mind and distorts the vision of those on whom it falls.  The simple answer is—Shakspeare knew that Homer's heroes were mythical characters, and not men and women of God's making.  As such he re-portrayed some of them.  That was all.  It was not his rôle to create heroes by turning the figures of fable into human characters, and he had no sympathy with that kind of counterfeiting and falsifying from which we have suffered so long and seriously in poetry as well as in theology.

    For those who have any real knowledge of the matter, such as Marlowe and Shakspeare obviously had, there is a difference the most diverse betwixt the kind of spiritualism implied by Chapman and this attributed to Marlowe by Shakspeare.  The one kind is vague and ideal; it belongs to the stock-in-trade of the Poets like the Inspiring Genius and the mythical Muse of Poetry.  The other is the spiritualism of phenomenal fact.  What Shakspeare recognizes and describes are the "spirits" which Marlowe evoked with "supernatural solicitings," as well as the familiar spirit Mephistopheles, who nightly gulled and tempted Faustus.  All this futile endeavour not to see the facts; all this labour in vain to obscure and conceal the facts from others, is necessitated in support of the fallacious hypothesis that William Herbert, and not Southampton, was the person addressed in these verses. If Marlowe be the living poet who is Shakspeare's rival here, then it is impossible for Herbert to be the patron, because Marlowe died when Herbert was a lad of thirteen; and if Herbert is to replace Southampton, Marlowe must first be got out of the way.  Hence the anxiety not to read this Sonnet rightly or to have it rightly read; hence the desire to have Marlowe stabbed over again by those who would condemn him to a second death.  They dare not and must not admit that the Rival Poet was Marlowe, the author of Dr. Faustus, the reputed Spiritualist.  They are compelled to suppress facts, to ignore data and dates, until they are driven dateless.  Professor Minto desperately declares that there is not a particle of evidence to show that the Sonnets published by Thorpe and those mentioned by Meres are identical, two of which appeared in print in 1599.  With regard to Chapman, I weighed every possible claim that he had, or hadn't, for months whilst working at the evidence in favour of Marlowe.  And here let me confess what arrested and troubled me most was the line in Sonnet 85

"To every 'himne' that able spirit affords."

That made me try hard to fit the square man into the round hole, because Chapman did both write and translate "Hymns."  It was not that I had any need to reject Chapman on account of dates, or possible relationship to Shakspeare and Southampton; his Shadow of Night was published in 1594, and it contained "hymns"; only these were dedicated to Matthew Roydon,—Chapman's "deare and most worthy friend,"—for whose affection I could not find that Shakspeare was a rival, nor were the hymns bound for the "prize" of either Southampton or Herbert.

    I think it probable that the word "himne" may be a misprint for line, but will not press that point now.  For if we read "hymn," then the Rival Poet would be writing hymns in praise of the person addressed by Shakspeare, who was neither Matthew Roydon nor the "Shadow of Night," but who was the Earl of Southampton, as already demonstrated.  Of such hymns we know nothing, although Chapman, in one of his dedicatory Sonnets prefixed to the Iliads, did proclaim Southampton to be the "Choice of all our Country's Noble Spirits."  No doubt Chapman was a representative of learning, though it was not him to whom Shakspeare alluded in A Midsummer Night's Dream, when he spoke of—

"The thrice-three Muses mourning for the death
 Of Learning, late deceased in beggary
."

That was written immediately after the death of Marlowe, who was slain by Francis Archer, June 16th, 1593, making a most miserable end.  Naturally enough, I hold it to mean the same "Learning" as that which in Sonnet 85 wielded the "golden quill," and employed the "precious phrase by all the Muses filed;" if Marlowe in the one case, it was Marlowe in both.  I had no personal objection to Chapman; no reason to reject him on behalf of my contention that Southampton is the patron and friend addressed in these Sonnets. That will hold the field against all comers, no matter whether the Rival Poet is considered to be Marlowe or Chapman.  As already mentioned, Chapman did dedicate to Southampton.  Nothing depends on this poet for my purpose, whereas everything depends upon him for the Brownites, or at least upon their getting rid of Marlowe.  Chapman might be one of the poets who were dedicating poetry to Southampton, especially as he was the finisher of Hero and Leander.  But when the group is reduced to two—"both you poets"—then it is obvious to me that no one could, can, or ever will compete with Marlowe for the place of the other Poet.

    And now it is proposed to turn the tables on the supporters of Chapman thus!  Years ago I saw that the line—

"But when your countenance fild up his line"

should not be copied from the original as "filed up his line," but as "filled up his line."  In my first edition it was suggested that Southampton might have promoted the completion of Titus Andronicus as Marlowe's work, which on being brought out at Shakspeare's theatre, was wrongly reputed to be Shakspeare's play.  My conjecture now is, that the countenance of Southampton was given to the finishing of Marlowe's poem of Hero and Leander; and as Chapman was not the author and finisher in one, he is here also excluded from being the other one of the two Poets.  He who finished the poem could not be the Poet who left it unfinished. Those last two lines of Sonnet 86 contain matter of great import—

"But when your countenance filled up his line
 Then
LACKED I matter: THAT enfeebled mine."

Here the quarto prints the word "fild," which, in following others, I read "filèd."  This was wrong.  The Shakspearean antithesis demands that it should be read fild = filled.  Shakspeare lacked matter for his verse because the patron's countenance had filled up the rival's line.  This is the innermost secret of the alleged "jealousy."  I can have no doubt that Sonnet 80 marks the moment of Shakspeare's first venture in publishing his poem of Venus and Adonis.  His "saucy bark, inferior far" to that of his rival, is about to be launched afloat on the "broad main," where it doth "wilfully appear."  In the dedication to the poem he knows not how the world will censure him for choosing so "strong a prop to support so weak a burthen," and in the Sonnet the writer says, "your shallowest help will hold me up afloat."  It also happens that certain of Ovid's Elegies were rendered by Marlowe and licensed in 1593, which did not appear in print before 1596.  That a venture is intended we gather from the lines—

"Then if HE thrive and I be cast away,
 The worst is this, my love was my decay."

The dedication of a first publication in the verse is as obvious as it is in the prose; the venture is just as primary, the success as problematical, and the first venture of the same Poet can only occur once, whether the dedication be in prose or rhyme!  Therefore we may conclude that he refers privately in his poetry to his first publication, when the Venus and Adonis appeared in print.  Moreover, the Poet says—

"Thou dost (not thou didst!) advance
 As high as Learning my rude ignorance."

He gives the raison d'être for publishing in the lines—

"But since your worth, (wide as the ocean is)
 The humblest as the proudest Bark doth bear,
 My saucy Bark, inferior far to his,
 On your broad main doth wilfully appear."

The dedicatory nature of the Sonnet, especially of the line,

"Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,"

may be glossed by the dedicatory Epistle to Euphues, in which Lily had said to his Patron, "If your Lordship with your little finger do but hold me up by the chin, I shall swim."  There is a tint of the most delicate modesty in the plea that if he sinks while Marlowe swims, his love for the friend, his desire to do him honour, will be the cause of his "decay"—not mere literary vanity.  Here as elsewhere the Sonnets supply a commentary and an audible conversation upon the external circumstances in the life of both the Poet and his public Patron, who in private was his familiar friend.

    As I understand Sonnet 86, there is a change of tense in it.  The two preceding ones are spoken in the present—

"Who is it that says most?"

"My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still."

These are both in the present tense at the moment of writing.  But the question

"Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
 Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you?"

refers to something in the past.  And as I read the Sonnets, the death of Marlowe lies between that past and present of the writer.  The "proud full sail" of Marlowe's verse, and all its galleon greatness, had been suddenly arrested in mid-voyage, and so the rival never reached the prospective prize.  This must be so if the rest of my interpretation be right.  Both poets were living and writing when Sonnets 79, 80, 83, and 85 were composed.  In the first of these his Muse has given place to a "worthier pen."  In the second the new Poet, the "better spirit," "the able spirit," is expending all his might at the time in writing that which is to be dedicated to the Patron's honour and glory.  Sonnet 85 shows this work is still being wrought "in polished form of well-refinèd pen."  But in Sonnet 85 the "mighty line" has come to an end unfinished, and the fragment is to be finished or filled up by the countenance or under the patronage of Shakspeare's friend.  This cannot apply to Chapman.

    The past and present tenses are mixed in this same Sonnet.  Yet both apply to Marlowe, and may be reconciled in this way: although he had died meantime, leaving his poem unfinished, and Shakspeare's Patron had undertaken to see it filled up, the play of Faustus is still running in the present at the opposition theatre.  Thus Mephistopheles, the "affable familiar Ghost," goes on gulling the Doctor nightly on the stage with delusive appearances and lying promises, after the death of Marlowe had occurred.  Shakspeare identifies the man and his work in his inclusive, unifying, fusing manner, which somewhat tends to confuse the present with the past unless we distinguish them very carefully.  My reading of the whole matter is as follows.  Marlowe was the Man of Arts, the great rival poet, the writer of "great verse," the "better spirit," the Poet whose precious phrase was finished by "all the Muses."  Shakspeare's language is identical with Chettle's applied to Marlowe in his Apology.  "For the first"—i.e. Marlowe—he says, "whose Learning I reverence"—"him I would wish to use no worse than I deserve."  The recognition of Marlowe as Learning is the same in both.  Shakspeare's lines give us the very viva effigies, not only of the Poet ("he of tall building and of goodly pride"—Sonnet 80), but of the man whose reputation was so marked as a student of magic.  It is a triple account, that only unites in one man, and that man is Marlowe—far and away beyond all possible competition.

    Shakspeare and Marlowe had both been engaged in writing poems for the Earl of Southampton; Shakspeare his Venus and Adonis, Marlowe his Hero and Leander!  Southampton was the prize in view that both were bound for.  Our Poet makes an allusion to his venture in publishing for the first time under the image of launching his vessel upon the wide ocean of the Patron's worth.  Two vessels are starting on the same course for the one port.  One of these carries the "proudest sail,"—the proud full sail of Marlowe's great verse.  Shakspeare's is the humble bark with the far inferior sail; his venture is but a small one.  If he should be wrecked the loss will be little.  The other vessel is of "tall building and of goodly pride," sailing out bravely on the "soundless deep," as—to quote Marlowe's own words,

"A stately-builded Ship, well-rigged and tall,
 The ocean maketh more majestical."

But it was the saucy little Boat that came safely into harbour.  The mighty galleon went down, and so we are precluded from attaining absolute proof of the port for which it was bound.  Shakspeare published his poem.  Marlowe came to a sudden, early break-off in his life and work.  He did not succeed in cutting out or reaching the prize.  His poem was left unfinished and undedicated to the Patron of Shakspeare.  Shakspeare admits that the crowning cause of his Sonneteering jealousy of his great rival is that the unfinished poem was to be completed under the countenance or patronage of Southampton.  At present it cannot be demonstrated that the line "filled up" by Chapman was done under the patronage of Shakspeare's friend, but nothing can be more likely, and nothing can be proved or adduced against this conclusion.

    The Poem of Hero and Leander was entered on the Stationers' Register Sept. 28th, 1593, three months only after Marlowe's death; which looks as if no time was to be lost in filling up his line, although the completed poem does not appear till 1598.  Later research shows that Chapman's continuation was also printed with Marlowe's portion in 1598.  In dedicating the published book to Sir Thomas Walsingham, Edward Blunt hints that the poem has had "other foster countenance," but that his name is likely to prove more "agreeable and thriving" to the work, which was the view of a sensible publisher, for the other fostering countenance—Southampton's—might not have shed so favourable an influence in 1598, the year in which the finished poem was printed, as he was then in great disgrace at Court!

    It was finished by George Chapman, and my inference is, that the foster-countenance under which the poem was completed was that of Southampton, who had been fellow-student at Cambridge with Marlowe.  When we come to consider the miserable end and evil reputation of Marlowe, it appears probable that some potent influence would be necessary to induce a man like George Chapman to take up the half-told story and finish the dead Poet's work.  He would hardly do it for love of Marlowe.

    Tradition affirms that Marlowe was an atheist, although, according to the same authority, he believed in a Devil, if not in more than one.  It further asserts that he practised necromancy as a student of black magic.  He was one of those who were denounced for having dealings with the Devil.  No doubt his Dr. Faustus gave a darker colour to such report, and in the eyes of many, as well as in their conversation, the man and his creation became one.  They would commonly call him "Faustus," just as they called him "Tamburlaine."  And this is exactly how Shakspeare has treated the subject.  In his dramatic way, he has identified Marlowe with Faustus, and he presents him upon the stage where, in vision, if it be not an actual fact, the play is running at the rival theatre, whilst the Poet is composing his Sonnet.  Some of us, the present writer included, are beginning to understand WHAT such charges really signified.  If Marlowe had lived in our day he would have been known, and in all likelihood maligned, as a phenomenal spiritualist!  The fact is fully admitted by Shakspeare himself in this Sonnet; for he not only points out the author of Dr. Faustus and his familiar spirit—"they say thou hast a familiar spirit, by whom thou canst accomplish what thou wilt"—the rival Writer has also been taught "by spirits" to write "above a mortal pitch;" he receives spiritual visitants in the night hours for the purpose and the practice of spirit communion.  "His spirit by spirits (is) taught to write," not by "skill."  Such spirits give him aid as his compeers by night.  These spiritual compeers are additional to Mephistopheles, the well-known "affable familiar Ghost" of the play, who gulls the doctor nightly with false intelligence.  Shakspeare grants the facts of Marlowe's writing under what is now termed "spirit-controul."  He acknowledged the supernatural aid thus received by abnormal inspiration, but says it was not this that cowed or overcrowed him, and made him keep silence.

"I was not sick of any fear from thence."

Here, then, is Shakspeare's testimony to the fact that his rival and competitor for the Patron's approval was a student of the occult arts—Black Magic, so-called—or was, as we should say, a "phenomenal spiritualist."

    The plays of Henry VI. show the writer's acquaintance with the subject of spirit intercourse—

"Well, let them practise and converse with spirits:
 God is our fortress."—1 King Henry VI., II. i.


"But where is Pucelle now?
 I think her old Familiar is asleep."—1 King Henry VI., III, ii.

"He has a Familiar under his tongue."—2 King Henry VI., IV. vii.

Shakspeare's language in the Sonnet is also Biblical.  We read in 2 Chronicles xxxiii. 6: "He observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit."  In the Sonnet Marlowe stands doubly identified in two ways, neither of which can apply to any other contemporary, as the known spiritualist, and as the author of Dr. Faustus.  Marlowe had thought for himself, and had come out of his inquiry unorthodox.  He had examined for himself those facts of abnormal experience which have been denied and denounced for the last 1800 years.  He had more than the courage of his opinions, and less than the wisdom needed in dealing with these natural mysteries of the ancient wisdom.  That which is not comprehended by the ignorant is so sure to be considered accursed!

    The charge of atheism was preferred by Greene in his Groatsworth of Wit when he said, "Wonder not, thou famous gracer of Tragedians, that Greene, who hath said with thee, like the fool in his heart, 'There is no God,' should now give glory to His greatness!"  It is not known whether Marlowe repudiated the charge of Atheism, but we do know from Chettle's Epistle to Kind-heart's Dreame that it gave offence to him.  Marlowe was likewise charged by Bame with holding damnable opinions; and by Beard with writing a book against the Bible.  When he was dead and dumb these Puritans danced on his early grave with ferocious delight.  Yet Marlowe's treatment of his subject in Dr. Faustus—his practice of unhallowed arts, his selling of his soul to the devil, his miserable death and eternal damnation—was strictly in accordance with orthodox notions of the matter.  The poor lame son of the Canterbury Cobbler who worked his way to Shakspeare's side in the race for fame was sadly blackguarded in his lifetime, and most unfortunate in his death; it is not to be tolerated that he should be stabbed over again and robbed of this recognition by Shakspeare for the sake of a false theory of the Sonnets by as incompetent a set of weaklings as ever pretended to be critics.  And here it may be urged, parenthetically, that Marlowe's is one of those cases in which the verdict of popular ignorance has to be revised in the light of later knowledge.

    Marlowe's early cutting-off was one of the saddest things in fact, and one of the most mournful memories in all the world of "might-have-been;" sad as the unfulfilled life of Shelley, of Keats, or of Chatterton.  No one of his contemporaries ever stood abreast or in the near neighbourhood of Shakspeare as Marlowe did in 1592-3.  In respect of his thirty years' lifetime, and what he did in it, he was Shakspeare's twin-brother, who strove with him for the birthright, and pushed into the world a little before him.  As the vulgar saying has it, he thus "got the bulge" of Shakspeare in point of time and recognition.  Though but one year older, he preceded Shakspeare by several years in fame.  His Tamburlaine the Great brought out as early as 1587, if not previously, was a triumphant success.  "Marlowe's mighty line," Jonson calls it.  Chapman says Marlowe "stood up to the chin in the Pierian flood."  Drayton wrote of him—

"Next Marlowe, bathèd in the Thespian springs,
 Had in him those brave translunary things,
 That the first poets had; his raptures were
 All air and fire, which made his verses clear:
 For that fine madness still he did retain,
 Which rightly should possess a poet's brain."

Marlowe was the poet who preceded Shakspeare in freeing the English Drama from the rhyming impediment in its speech; through him our poetry first stood up full-statured in the unfettered freedom of blank verse.  He did it manfully too, if somewhat mouthily.  Shakspeare appreciated his work, and took advantage of the new track thus struck out by his rival.  He would be the first to give him all praise for having, in his use of blank verse, discovered a new spring of the national Helicon with the impatient pawing-hoof of his fiery warhorse of a Pegasus; but for which Shakspeare himself might possibly have remained more of a rhymer, and not attained his full dramatic stature.

    Marlowe in relation to Shakspeare was as Hoche in relation to Napoleon, or Giorgione in relation to Titian; the promise of his dawn was only fulfilled in Shakspeare's perfect day—so great was it!

    In 1592-3 Marlowe was the only man worthy of Shakspeare's friendly jealousy (he felt no other), and won it!  He was the great rival as playwright at the rival theatre which touched Shakspeare with a spur on behalf of his own.  Another reason why the man who pricked on Shakspeare with his Tamburlaine, Dr. Faustus, and his Edward the Second should be the acknowledged superior poet in the Sonnets!  Marlowe was the only one of his contemporaries to whom Shakspeare is known to have referred approvingly, I think lovingly, as he does in As You Like It

"Dead Shepherd, now I know thy saw of might,
 He never loved who loved not at first sight."

He looks up to him in the Sonnets and lauds him highly.  Although it is just possible that there is a shade of double meaning in his characterizing of Marlowe's "great verse," and that the words "Above a mortal pitch" are said with an underlined, italic look, as though he were gauging the extravagance of Marlowe that inflated his poetry somewhat unnaturally, and elevated the tone at times a little too rhetorically.  If so it supplies another sad example of the covert allusiveness and lurking humour of this most demurely double-minded man in his mingling of the critical with the laudatory mood.  Marlowe was the first to taste the luxury of words in the English language as with the dainty palate of John Keats.  But he had a far more languorous spirit than Shakspeare, who does not produce his drops of sweetness by dissolving his pearls of strength.

"Infinite riches in a little room,"

that is one of Marlowe's felicitous lines ; there are others almost as happy—

"Of stature tall and straightly fashioned,
 Like his desire lift upward and divine."

"Pale of complexion, wrought in him with passion."

"Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss."

"Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air,
 Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars."

      BEAUTY BEYOND EXPRESSION.
"If all the pens that ever poets held
 Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts,
 And every sweetness that inspired their hearts,
 And minds, and muses on admirèd themes;
 If all the heavenly quintessence they 'still
 From their immortal flowers of poesy,
 Wherein, as in a mirror, we perceive
 The highest reaches of a human wit;
 If these had made one poem's period,
 And all combined in beauty's worthiness,
 Yet should there hover in their restless heads
 One thought, one grace, one wonder, at the best,
 Which into words no virtue can digest."

At whose bidding are we to assume that Shakspeare could not recognize his only rival?  That he did not know what constituted grace in poetry and majesty in music?  Immeasurable is the critical incompetence that can charge Shakspeare with looking up to Chapman in the way he does to Marlowe, and celebrating the grace, the majesty, the "proud full sail" of his great verse in 1593, or up to 1598, when the Sonnets were known to be circulating amongst the "private friends."  "Remember, if e'er thou lookedst on majesty!" Chapman had but little grace and seldom did attain the gait of majesty.  When Marlowe ceases and Chapman tries to continue the strain of Hero and Leander, the change is positively painful.  The charm is broken, the music turns to discord, the grace is blurred, the glory gone.  The full sail of the great verse collapses.  The life of Marlowe's poem comes to an end.  There is a funeral and a following supplied by Chapman, but no resurrection for the buried dead.  I have no desire to decry Chapman because others have placed him in a false position.  But these are a few of the unreadable rhymes in his continuation of the poem—

"Till our Leander, that made Mars his Cupid,
 For soft love-suits, with iron thunders chid."

"If then Leander did my maidenhead git,
 Leander being myself, I still retain it!"

"After this accident which, for her glory,
 Hero could not but make a history."

Such lines occur in what is called "heroic verse."

    Shakspeare might consider Chapman's verse big, huge, rugged as of unwieldy strength, but the man who had the sense of melody and the graceful facility to write the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, and the Midsummer Night's Dream before he was thirty could not have felt that it was remarkably graceful, or majestically great, although some of his lines are hewn mightily, as is the Cyclopean masonry of primitive men.  I consider it particularly impossible that Shakspeare should have looked upon everything that Chapman had then written as preserving its character with a "golden quill," and "precious phrase by all the Muses filed," in "polished form of well-refinèd pen."

    The Marlowe group of Sonnets is out of place, and ought to be printed earlier, but I have not changed its position, as it is but a matter of chronology.  Also, I am positively certain that Sonnet 81 does not belong to the group in which it is found.  It breaks the course of the argument, and has the blank stare of a blocked-up window.  It is vacant of meaning where it stands.  The feeling expressed in it is entirely opposed to that of the Sonnets which precede and those that follow.  It comes in the midst of those where the poet is acknowledging his inferiority, especially to one great writer whom he recognizes as the "better spirit," the Poet who is more able than himself to immortalize his friend.  This is one of the Earl's Two Poets.  Shakspeare acknowledges that this abler poet of the two is spending all his might in praise of the same patron; consequently the rival was at least as "able" to eternize the fame of Southampton as was the verse of Shakspeare.  And yet if the next Sonnet were in its right place, the inferior writer would be assuming that his verse alone had the power to confer "immortal life" upon his name—"such virtue hath my Pen."  He is not behind in this Sonnet.  He is alone, with no one abreast of him.  Thus in Sonnet 80 one of the Earl's two Poets is making Shakspeare feel as if under an eclipse.  In Sonnet 82 he advises the Earl to patronize a better pen than his.  And between these two crest-fallen utterances comes the crow of Sonnet 81, in which Shakspeare stands alone, assuming that it is from his verse and from that solely the Patron is to be immortalized—

"Your monument shall be my gentle verse."

Clearly this is an interpolation.  The Sonnet belongs to the group on the Poet's possible death, where I previously placed it.  This time I am re-grouping far less than before, and so leave it to speak for itself, where it tells the tale of being out of place.


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-XV-

DRAMATIC SONNETS.

Southampton to Elizabeth Vernon.

 

Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know'st thy estimate;
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate:
For how do I hold thee, but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift to me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving:
Thyself then gav'st, thy own worth then
        not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav'st it, else mistaking
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making:
    Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter;
    In sleep a king, but waking, no such matter. (87)

When thou shalt feel disposed to set me light,
And place my merit in the eye of scorn,
Upon thy side against myself I'll fight
And prove thee virtuous, though thou art
        forsworn:
With mine own weakness being best
        acquainted,
Upon my part I can set down a story
Of faults concealed wherein I am attainted,
That thou in losing me shalt win much glory:
And I by this will be a gainer too.
For binding all my loving thoughts on thee,
The injuries that to myself I do,
Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me—
    Such is my love, to thee I so belong
    That for thy right myself will bear all
            wrong. (88)

Say that thou did'st forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence:
Speak of my lameness and I straight will halt,
Against thy reasons making no defence:
Thou canst not, Love, disgrace me half so ill,
To set a form upon desired change,
As I'll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,
I will acquaintance strangle and look strange;
Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue,
Thy sweet belovèd name no more shall dwell,
Lest I, too much profane, should do it wrong
And haply of our old acquaintance tell:
    For thee against myself I'll vow debate,
    For I must ne'er love him whom thou dost
            hate. (89)
 
Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;
Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
Join with, the spite of Fortune, make me bow,
And do not drop in for an after-loss;
Ah! do not, when my heart hath 'scaped
        this sorrow,
Come in the rearward of a conquered woe:
Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,

To linger out a purposed overthrow!
If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last
When other petty griefs have done their spite,
But in the onset come; so shall I taste
At first the very worst of Fortune's might;
    And other strains of woe which now seem
            woe,
    Compared with loss of thee will not seem
            so. (90)

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their body's force,
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their
        horse:
And every Humour hath his adjunct pleasure
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest,
But these particulars are not my measure,
All these I better in one general best:
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments'
        cost;
Of more delight than hawks or horses be
And having thee, of all men's pride I boast;
    Wretched in this alone, that then may'st take
    All this away, and me most wretched make. (91)

But do thy worst to steal thyself away,
For term of life thou art assurèd mine
And life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine!
Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
When in the least of them my life hath end
I see a better state to me belongs
Than that which on thy humour doth depend;
Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,
Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie;
O, what a happy title do I find,
Happy to have thy love, happy to die!
    But what's so blessed fair that fears no blot?—
    Thou may'st be false, and yet I know it not! (92)

So shall I live, supposing thou art true,
Like a deceivèd husband: so love's face
May still seem love to me, though altered new;
Thy looks with me, thy heart in other place:
For there can live no hatred in thine eye,
Therefore in that I cannot know thy change;
In many's looks the false heart's history
Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles
        strange;
But Heaven in thy creation did decree
That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell;
Whate'er thy thoughts or thy heart's workings be,
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness
        tell:
    How like Eve's Apple doth thy beauty grow,
    If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show! (93)

 

    It is now approaching a parting in downright earnest with Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon.  The lover speaks as one who has an "honourable grief lodged here, that burns worse than tears can drown."  She is too dear for him to possess.  He has called her his for awhile, because she gave herself to him, either not knowing her worth or his unworthiness.  She gave herself away upon a mistake, a misconception, his patent having been granted in error; and her better judgment recalls the gift.  Farewell!  Whatsoever reason she may assign for this course, he will support it, and make no defence on his own behalf.  She cannot disgrace him half so badly, whatever excuse she may put forth for this "desired change," as he will disgrace himself.  Knowing her will, he will not claim her acquaintance, but walk no more in the old accustomed meeting-places; and should they meet by chance, he will look strange, see her as though he saw her not.  He will not name her name lest he—"too much profane"—should soil it, and very possibly tell of their acquaintanceship.  He will fight against himself in every way for her; he must never love him whom she hates.  "Then hate me when thou wilt; let the worst come, if ever, now, whilst the world is bent upon crossing my deeds.  Join with the spite of Fortune, make me bow all at once.  Do not wait till I have surmounted my present sorrow.  Give not a night of sighs a morrow of weeping, to lengthen out that which you purpose doing.  Do not come with the greater trial when other petty griefs have wreaked their worst upon me, but in the onset come, and let me taste the utmost of Fortune's might at one blow.  Then—

'Other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
 Compared with loss of thee will not seem so.' "

Some glory in their birth, others in their skill, their wealth, their rich raiment.  But all such particulars of possession he betters in "one general best."  Her love is better than high birth, wealth, or treasures.  Having her, he has the sum total of all that men are proud of.  He is only wretched in the thought that she may take all this away if she takes away herself from him.  But she may do her worst to steal herself away from him: she is his for life.  His life is bound up with her love, and both will end together.  Therefore he need not trouble himself about other wrongs when, if he loses her love, there is an end of all.  On this fact he will plant himself firmly.  He is happy to have her love, and will be happy to die should he lose her.  That is the position he takes.  Still, his philosophy does not supply him with armour of proof.  The darts of a lover's jealousy will pierce.  He cannot rest in his conclusions, however final.  With a lover it is not only Heaven or Hell; there is the intermediate Purgatorial state.  After the magnanimity of feeling this mean thought will intrude!—

"But what's so blessed fair that fears no blot?
 Thou may'st be false, and yet I know it not."

If she were to play him false he could not know it, he should live on like a deceived husband; her looks might be with him, her heart elsewhere.  For Nature has so moulded her, and given her such sweetness and grace, that, whether loving him or not, she must always look lovely, and her looks would not show her thoughts, or set the secret of her heart at gaze, even if both were false to him.  Pray God it be not so, his feeling cries!  "How like is thy beauty to that Apple of Eve, smiling so ripely on the outside, and so rotten within, if thy sweet virtue correspond not to the promise of that fair face."

    Surely there ought to have been no mistaking this jealousy of the lover in the pangs of uncertainty!  Also,

"Thy love is better than high birth to me,"

was hardly the language that Shakspeare could have addressed to a man of high birth, as he would thus proclaim his own superiority to one who was himself a noble born.  The Poet was not in a position to look down on high birth when writing to a peer of the realm.  Neither could hawking have been a very familiar sport with him personally.  Hawks and horses were not to be despised by him.  He would be playing with counters, if these lines had been personal to himself.  Once more, let us not forget that this was the man of all men who held the mirror up to Nature!

    This parting I think must have occurred, or been thus spoken of, after the disgraceful affair in Court, which is chronicled by Rowland White.  On the 19th of January, 1598—to repeat the old gossip's words—he writes to Sir Robert Sidney: "I hard of some unkindness should be between 3000 (the No. in his cypher for Southampton) and his Mistress, occasioned by some report of Mr. Ambrose Willoughby.  3000 called hym to an account for yt, but the matter was made knowen to my Lord of Essex, and my Lord Chamberlain, who had them in Examination; what the cause is I could not learne, for yt was but new; but I see 3000 full of discontentments."  Two days later he records that Southampton was playing a game of cards called Primero with Raleigh and some other courtiers in the presence-chamber.  They continued their game after the Queen had retired to rest.  Ambrose Willoughby, the officer in waiting, warned them that it was time to depart.  Raleigh obeyed; but when Willoughby threatened to call in the guard and pull down the board, Southampton took offence and would not go.  Words ensued, and a scuffle followed; blows were exchanged, and Willoughby tore out some of Southampton's hair.  When the Queen heard of the affair next morning, she thanked Willoughby for his part in it, and said he "should have sent the Earl to the porter's lodge to see who durst have fetched him out!"  The Queen  commanded Southampton to absent himself from Court.  He was again in disgrace, with Mistress Vernon as a grieved looker-on.  White's letters afford good evidence of the occasion, and go far to identify the particular time.

    Southampton then proposed to leave England and offer his sword to Henry IV. of France, and White says: "His fair mistress doth wash her fairest face with too many tears."  The allusions in Sonnet 90 are specially applicable to the time when he had but lately returned from the "Island voyage" in October, 1597, to receive frowns instead of thanks for what he had done, and to find the world was bent upon crossing his deeds; the spite of Fortune more bitter than ever; the Queen irate with him because he had dared to pursue and sink one of the Spanish ships without orders from Monson, the Admiral, the man who decried the last great deed of Sir Richard Grenville.


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-XVI-

DRAMATIC SONNETS.

Elizabeth Vernon to Southampton on his ill deeds.

 

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who moving others are themselves as stone,
Unmovèd, cold, and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit Heaven's graces,
And husband Nature's riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence:
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die;
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity!
    For sweetest things turn sourest by their
            deeds;
    Lilies that fester smell far worse than
            weeds. (94)

How sweet and lovely dost thou make the
        shame
Which, like a canker in the fragrant Rose,
Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name;
O, in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose!
That tongue that tells the story of thy days,
Making lascivious comments on thy sport,
Cannot dispraise but in a kind of praise:

Naming thy name blesses an ill report:
O, what a mansion have those vices got,
Which for their habitation chose out thee!
Where beauty's veil doth cover every blot,
And all things turn to fair that eyes can
        see!  [54]
    Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege;
    The hardest knife ill-used doth lose his
            edge. (95)

Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness,
Some say thy grace is youth and gentle sport;
Both grace and faults are loved of more or less;
Thou mak'st faults graces that to thee resort!
As on the finger of a thronèd Queen
The basest jewel will be, well-esteemed,
So are those errors that in thee are seen
To truths translated and for true things deemed:
How many lambs might the stern Wolf betray,
If like a lamb he could his looks translate:
How many gazers might'st thou lead away,
If thou would'st use the strength of all thy state!
    "But do not so: I love thee in such sort,
    As thou being mine, mine is thy good
            report."  [55]  (96)

 


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-XVII-

DRAMATIC SONNETS.

Southampton to Elizabeth Vernon.

"Vernon Semper Viret."

 

How like a Winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December's bareness everywhere!
And yet this time removed was summer's time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widowed wombs after their lords' decease:
Yet this abundant issue seemed to me
But hope of orphans and unfathered fruit:
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute—
    Or, if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer
    That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's
            near. (97)

From you I have been absent in the spring,
When proud pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laught and leapt with him:
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
 

Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those!
    Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
    As with your Shadow I with these did play. (98)

The forward Violet thus did I chide:—
"Sweet thief! whence didst thou steal thy sweet
        that smells
If not from my Love's breath? the purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells,
In my Love's veins thou hast too grossly dyed!
"
The lily I condemnèd for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stolen thy hair;
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stolen of both,
And to his robbery had annexed thy breath;
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth,
A vengeful canker ate him up to death!
    More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,
    But sweet or colour it had stolen from thee. (99)

 

The last two groups of Sonnets are eloquent of love's pains and the pangs of lovers parting.  The present thrills with the rapture of return.  Both are essentially amatory, and this is full of the flowery tenderness of the grand passion.  How could any one think that the greatest of all dramatists would have lavished such imagery on the feeling of man for man, devoted this dalliance with all the choice beauties of external nature as the beloved's shadow, and looked upon the frailest flowers as the "figures of delight," drawn after the pattern of a man?  As though our Poet did not know the difference betwixt courting a man and wooing a woman!  As though he would have charged the Violet, his own darling, with stealing its sweetness from a man's breath, and its purple pride from the blood of a man's veins!  It is Shakspearean sacrilege to suppose that the Poet ever condemned the lily for daring to emulate the whiteness of a warrior's hand.  It is an insult offered to the "white wonder of dear Juliet's hand," that Romeo adored; the "snow white hand of the most beauteous Lady Rosaline," that my Lord Biron addressed; the "princess (qy. princeps) of pure white" saluted by Demetrius ; the "white hand of Rosalind," by which Orlando swore; the "white hand of a lady" that Thyreus was soundly whipped for kissing; the while hand of Perdita that Florizel took, "as soft as dove's down and as white as it;" and Cressid's hand, "in whose comparison all whites are ink."

                                            "That phraseless hand,
Whose white weighs down the airy scale of praise."—Lover's Complaint.

This was a grace most jealously preserved for the dainty hands of his women, not thrown away on his bronzed fighting men!

    The present return of the Earl I conjecture to be from the journey which followed the parting in the last group but one.  Southampton left England late in February of the year 1598, and came home for good in November.  He paid a hasty secret visit in August to marry Elizabeth Vernon, but the absence altogether corresponds to the one herein described.  The third Sonnet contains fifteen lines—a variation which suggests that some of the Sonnets ran on as stanzas in a poem, and that in the present instance this continuity was marked by an extra line.

    I have been complimented before now (or twitted) with my eloquent ingenuity just where the eloquence was but the accent of truth, and the ingenuity was only the pleading of nature for the rightness of my reading.  Doubtless this mode of discrediting the interpretation will be applied to my reading of the present group of Sonnets.  I shall be told that it is my tendency to consider the matter too curiously.  My reply is, that it is impossible with a writer so cunning in curiosæ as Shakspeare, who was writing so covertly to please those "curious days."  It takes a vast deal of ingenuity to be up to him, or to delve him to the root.  Indeed, it cannot be done except by aid of the inside view of the Sonnets.

    It is no longer necessary for me to combat the supposition that these Flower-Sonnets are personal to Shakspeare, as I am about to offer the proof that they are personal to Southampton, and that Elizabeth Vernon alone supplied the raison d'être for their being written.

    The Vernon motto was "Vernon semper viret"; Vernon (or Spring) ever flourishes.  This could not have escaped the quick attention of Shakspeare, and did not; nor did the chance afforded for the play of his fancy, which was a more serious kind of wit.  And here we have an exquisite instance of the deep-brained, delicate subtlety of these Dramatic Sonnets.

    Vernon was the natural antithesis to Winter.  Vernon was the "pleasure of the fleeting year," and therefore the Spring.  The Spring, or vernal season, is the pleasure of the fleeting year, as brief as beautiful; and Vernon was the Spring in person as well as the Spring by name.  She was the lover's Spring all the year; Vernon perpetuum.  The returning lover says—

"How like a Winter hath my absence been!"

Whilst he was away from her, although it was Spring and Summer all the while, because she was away from him, and because she WAS the Spring, and the

               "Pleasure of the fleeting year."
"For Summer and his pleasures wait on thee."

That is, they stay in attendance on the Spring, as the ratheness of the year is followed by the ripeness of the Summer and Autumn.  Hence they stayed with or waited upon Vernon.  The very birds were mute with her away, whose absence was Winter.  Yet seemed, it Winter still with Vernon away.  Vernon being the Spring by nature and by name, the flowers of Spring and early Summer are but representatives of her.  Vernon was present in the April flowers.  These, however, were only sweet as reminders of her who was absent; they were but figures of delight drawn after her who was the pattern of all these, the Spring itself, or Vernon.  Hence the lover says—

"As with your likeness I with these did play."

That is, with the vernal flowers that stole the likeness, the form, the breath of Vernon. She was the "Pattern of all those" after whom their figures were drawn, because she was Vernon. The Poet then portrays her shadow or likeness, and paints her picture by finding her features, her colours, her sweetness in the flowers. One of the most lovely and cunning of all poetic conceits is this of the sweets and graces of the external season being stolen from the human Spring personified in Vernon, and kept concealed until now. The white grace of the lily, the blush of the rose, the breath of the violet, the pride of its purple, the glossy buds of the marjoram, these were all derived from her; the flowers of Spring were but figures of delight drawn after her, who was the pattern of all these; the permanent, or ever-flourishing Spring of which these were but the shows that passed away, whilst his Spring lived on in her, Vernon semper viret!

This arraignment of the flowers as thieves of the lady's charms, and their shrinking acknowledgment on being found out, is pretty beyond parallel, when once we know the lady was Vernon herself.

"More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,
 But sweet or colour it had stolen from thee."

The likeness is all lady in every feature.  Spring is all Vernon in every flower.  The Sonnets are all Vernon by nature and by name.  The portrait of Elizabeth Vernon with her reddish-brown hair is extant to identify the "buds of marjoram," which certainly had no likeness in the hair of Southampton or Herbert.

"And buds of marjoram had stolen thy hair."

How careful he was to match the colour!  This description of the lady's hair contains the true Shakspearean touch of nearness to nature.  We may depend upon it no other comparison would have presented the likeness with the same nicety.  To judge from Elizabeth Vernon's portrait at Hodnet by the aid of a sketch in water-colours kindly made for me, it would seem to have been suspiciously reddish, but the writer was desirous of distinguishing the tint with very close exactness.  The buds of marjoram are of a darkish red-brown hue, and have a peculiar hair-like lustre or glossiness.  Peacham notices the glossy buds of marjoram.  Thus the buds may be said to have stolen the silky gloss and tint of the lady's hair, which was the very opposite to a dry rusty red.

    At the very time, in the year 1598, when this journey of Southampton can be traced, Elizabeth Vernon was about to give birth to her first child.  It came perilously near to her being a mother before she was a wife.  This fact is visibly reflected in the 97th Sonnet, in the subtly allusive Shakspearean way—

"The teeming Autumn, big with rich increase,
 Bearing the wanton burden of the PRIME,
 Like widowed wombs after their lords' decease;
 Yet this abundant issue seemed to me,
 But hope of orphans and unfathered fruit!"

    For those who can follow me here to see the facts reflected by the dramatist in the mirror that he holds up to nature, this mode of representation, this appeal to the paternal instinct, must be felt to be ineffably pathetic.  The subtlety of his art in reaching the profoundest realities of nature whilst apparently at play with smiling similes is unfathomable.  Such strokes of business are effected in pelting his friend with these innocent flowers!

    This thought of Vernon as the Spring is present in several of the Dramatic Sonnets.  Through all the Winter of the lover's discontent Vernon ever flourished for him as his present or coming Spring.  When he mourns over the loss and lack of dear friends dead and gone, and feels the wintry desolation at the heart of life, she comes to him with her love, and is as the presence of Spring, retouching the old graves with new green.  Spring ever flourishes in the person, in the presence, or in the absence of Vernon.  The Poet could not pun on the name of Vernon, or blab the secret out in words.  But all that I am saying is contained in the lines, and Shakspeare conveys the sense or essence of the meaning in thoughts and images without the direct use of the lady's name.  It follows that with this reading the Sonnets are fifty-fold more manly, and the writer of them gains a hundred-fold in likeness to the man whom we know from the plays and by all contemporary report.


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-XVIII-

PERSONAL SONNETS.

Shakspeare to Southampton after being some time silent.

 

Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;  [56]
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem,
And gives thy pen both skill and argument:
Rise, restive Muse, my Love's sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there:
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make Time's spoils despisèd everywhere!
    Give my Love fame faster than Time wastes life;
    So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked
            knife.   (100)

O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends
For thy neglect of truth in beauty dyed?
Both truth and beauty on my Love depends;
So dost thou too, and therein dignified:
Make answer, Muse! wilt thou not haply say,
"Truth needs no colour with his colour fixed;
Beauty no pencil, beauty's truth to lay:
But best is best if never intermixed
"?
Because he needs no praise, wilt thou be dumb?
Excuse not silence so; for it lies in thee
To make him much outlive a gilded tomb,
And to be praised of ages yet to be!
    Then do thy office, Muse; I teach thee how
    To make him seem long hence as be is now.   (101)

My love is strengthened, tho' more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandised whose rich esteeming
The owner's tongue doth publish everywhere!
Our love was new and then but in the spring
When I was wont to greet it with my lays,
As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight!
    Therefore, like her, I sometimes hold my tongue,
    Because I would not dull you with my song.   (102)

Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth,
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument, all bare, is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside:
O blame me not if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines and doing me disgrace!
Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
    And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
    Your own glass shows you when you look
            in it. (103)

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still ; three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned
Since first I saw you fresh which yet are green:
Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath notion, and mine eye may be deceived;
    For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
    Ere you were born was Beauty's summer
            dead.   (104)

Let not my love be called Idolatry,
Nor my beloved as an Idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be,
To one, of one, still such and ever so;
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence,
Therefore my verse to constancy confined,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference:
Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,
Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords:
    Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,
    Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.   (105)

When in the chronicle of wasted time,
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme,
In praise of Ladies dead, and lovely Knights,
Then in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique Pen would have expressed
Even such a beauty as you master now:
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring,
And for they looked but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing :
    For we, which now behold these present days,
    Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise. (106)

What's in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit?
What's new to speak, what now to register
That may express my love, or thy dear merit?
Nothing, sweet boy! but yet like prayers divine
I must each day say o'er the very same;
Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name!
So that eternal love in love's fresh case
Weighs not the dust and injury of age,
Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,
But makes antiquity for aye his page,
    Finding the first conceit of love there bred,
    Where time and outward form would show it
            dead. (108)

 

    In this group there is evidence of an absence of the person addressed, and a silence on the part of the speaker.  Yet, the person who has been away cannot have been Shakspeare, or the absence would be the cause of the silence!  The Speaker in the previous Sonnets says nothing could make him "any summer's story tell," whereas the speaker in these Sonnets has been telling stories; has been at work on some worthless old story or other, turning it into a play, during the absence of the previous speaker.  Hard work, in his friend's absence, is the cause why he has forgotten so long to write of the Earl, and not his own absence from England or London.  The length of the absence also is opposed to the idea of it being Shakspeare who was away from his theatre all through the spring, summer, and autumn!  These Sonnets show plainly that the Earl, who was the speaker in the preceding three Sonnets, has now returned from abroad, and the Poet stirs up his muse on the subject of the Earl's Sonnets.  Return, forgetful Muse, he says, and redeem the time that has been spent so idly in darkening thy power to lend base subjects light.  Sing to the ear that does esteem thy lays, and gives thy pen both skill and argument.  Rise and see if, during his absence, gives Time has engraven any wrinkle in his face.  If so be thou the satirist of Time's power, and make his spoils despised, by retouching with tints of immortal youth this portrait that shall be hung up beyond the reach of decay.  It will be seen that Shakspeare speaks of his friend with a lighter heart, and once more exalts his virtues, truth, and constancy.  The meaning of this may be found in the fact that the Earl has now publicly crowned the secret sovereign of his heart; he has at last married Elizabeth Vernon.  This celebration of the Earl's constancy and truth is not in relation to the Poet, but to the Earl's Mistress and his marriage.  He is "constant in a wondrous excellence," and therefore Shakspeare's verse is still confined to the praise of that constancy.  These Sonnets tell us that the Earl and his love were yet the Poet's only argument.  Up to the present hour he had been writing to and of and for his friend Southampton.

    At the time of Southampton's marriage, in 1598, the Poet had known his friend some eight years, and as that is somewhere about the date of these Sonnets, according to the internal and external evidence, I must hold that Sonnet 104 is one of those which have strayed out of place.  Southampton was only twenty years old when Shakspeare had known him three years, and at that date there could have been no call for the Poet to fight on his behalf against the "dust and injury" and "necessary wrinkles" of age.


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Footnotes.

[49.](page 151)   Cf. Wordsworth's fine passage written on this line of thought—

And here was Labour, his own bond-slave; Hope,
That never set the pains against the prize;
Idleness halting with his weary clog,
And poor misguided Shame, and witless Fear,
And foolish Pleasure foraging for Death;
Honour misplaced, and Dignity astray;
Feuds, factions, flatteries, enmity, and guile,
Murmuring submission, and bald government,
(The idol weak as the idolator,)
And Decency and Custom starving Truth,
And blind Authority beating with his staff
The child that might have led him; Emptiness
Followed as of good omen, and meek Worth
Left to herself unheard of and unknown.
                                             Wordsworth's Prelude, Book III.

[50.](page 161)    Faery Queen, B. 3, Canto 6, 45.

[51.](page 161)

"Pursuing yesternight, with idle eyes,
 The Fairy Singer's stately-tunèd verse,
 And viewing, after chapmen's wonted guise,
 What strange contents the title did rehearse;
 I straight leapt over to the latter end,
 Where, like the quaint comedians of our time
 That when their play is done do fall to rhyme,
 I found short lines to sundry Nobles penned,
 Whom he as special mirrors singled forth
 To be the patrons of his poetry.
 I read them all, and reverenced their worth,
 Yet wondered he left out thy memory!
     But therefore guessed I he suppressed thy name,
     Because few words might not comprise thy fame."

A delightful confession and an interesting picture of Nash on the look-out for some one to flatter, and hurrying eagerly over the list of Spenser's patrons!

[52.](page 162)   Brown, p. 83.

[53.](page 162)   Shakspeare's Sonnets. Dowden, Introd., p. 37.

[54.](page 177)   "There's nothing ill can dwell in such a temple. "—(Miranda of Ferdinand.)

"O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face!
 Was ever book containing such vile matter
 So fairly bound?   O, that deceit should dwell
 In such a gorgeous palace!"—(Juliet to Romeo.)

[55.](page 177)    A repetition from Sonnet 36, p. 139.

[56.](page 181)   The lost time was redeemed not only by the writing of this group of Personal Sonnets, but also the dramatic series that follows them.

 



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